Strategies seek to boost health provider flu shots

APIC: Educate staff as well as patients

Health care workers need an annual influenza vaccine to protect themselves and their patients, advise national infection control officials. The Association for Professionals in Infection Con-trol and Epidemiology (APIC) recently released a position paper on influenza immunization and is urging hospitals to improve their rates. Only 36% of health care workers receive the vaccines annually, according to the National Health Interview Survey.

"With other preventable diseases, we’ve placed much more emphasis on making sure we have immunity," says Jeanne Pfeiffer, RN, MPH, CIC, APIC president, who is infection control program coordinator at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. APIC joins other organizations, including the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in making a greater push for influenza immunization.

It won’t be easy, she acknowledges. "Even in our facility, where we’ve had an active program in place for about 10 years, we are at a little over 50%."

The recommendations issued by APIC include the following:

1. All health care facilities should prepare a written policy stressing the importance of influenza vaccination among health care workers. This policy should strongly recommend that health care workers receive annual influenza vaccination to prevent spread of the virus to vulnerable patients. Every organization, regardless of size or type, should demonstrate its commitment by creating and distributing the policy to all employees.

2. Influenza immunization programs should be designed and implemented annually to increase vaccination rates.

3. Monitor annual immunization rates of employees, and provide feedback through the infection control and patient safety programs.

4. Monitor and track health care-associated influenza, in comparison to the health care worker immunization rates. Providing this information may stimulate health care workers to seek vaccination.

5. Track community incidence of influenza with public health officials using data from emergency department, physician offices, and clinics. As the incidence increases, infection control and hospital administration should work together to identify pending admissions of potential influenza cases and establish parameters for visitor restrictions.

(Editor’s note: To see a copy of the APIC position paper on influenza vaccination of health care workers, go to www.apic.org.)