Try strategies to increase vaccination rates in HCWs

Get commitment at the top

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, these are the key strategies to establish a successful flu immunization program for health care workers:

Select a leader to administer the influenza immunization program.

Some institutions have an influenza program chairperson responsible for planning and administering the influenza vaccination program for workers. More often, it is a department, such as occupational health or infection control, or a multidisciplinary team that heads up vaccination efforts. Regardless of the size of the health care institution, someone or some group must be in charge of a program to ensure its success and longevity.

Get a commitment from top management.

Management must demonstrate belief in the effectiveness and necessity of vaccination. In one hospital, the president, CEO, and COO are the first to receive the vaccine. In another, top management volunteers to hand out vaccine information sheets to employees during vaccination campaigns. With the support of senior staff, departments are more likely to work together to achieve higher immunization rates.

Create a policy statement affirming institutional commitment to increasing health care worker influenza vaccination rates.

Health care institutions should put their commitment in writing if they believe everyone who comes in contact with patients should receive influenza vaccine annually. The written policy should be communicated to all employees to ensure each has read it and realizes his or her role in achieving it.

Use every possible means to deliver messages.

Whether it’s educational information about why the vaccine works or logistical information about where and when to get vaccinated, all means possible should be used to deliver the message. Communications vehicles can include e-mail notices and reminders as well as an employee newsletter. There may be a need to provide information in languages other than English.

Provide education and reeducation.

Ongoing education is needed to reduce and eliminate misinformation. The health care worker population includes a wide variety of people with a wide range of knowledge. Although some information will be retained from year to year, most people will require yearly reminders. In addition, new employees start throughout the year.

Make influenza vaccine easily accessible.

It is essential to make vaccine accessible to health care workers and other employees. Rolling carts bring the vaccine to the employees, wherever they may be, including:

  • cafeterias at lunch and break times;
  • employee entrance or parking garages during shift changes;
  • grand rounds or other medical conferences;
  • medical records areas where all physicians and most residents must go to sign charts;
  • departmental meetings, including regularly scheduled faculty and house staff meetings.

That strategy coincides nicely with management participation — department managers should roll up their sleeves first.

Remove cost barriers to immunization.

Influenza vaccination of health care workers protects patients. As such, vaccination is an infection control and patient safety measure that is the ultimate fiscal responsibility of the institution.

Audit immunization programs and provide feedback to key personnel.

Success cannot be claimed until it is measured. Strategies should be tested and checked to ensure they are working as planned.

One way to measure success is simply to track doses given and calculate the percentage of employees who have been immunized. It is even more effective to track by location to assure the units with the highest risk patients have adequate health care worker vaccination rates.

If a unit has done well, it should be publicly applauded.

Repeat the influenza immunization program annually.

No program or set of strategies will work in the long term if stopped after just one season.

Employees hired between influenza seasons will not have been part of the previous year’s efforts, and those who were present but chose not to be vaccinated earlier will benefit from hearing messages again.

Reference 

1. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Improving Influenza Vaccination Rates in Health Care Workers: Strategies to Increase Protection for Workers and Patients. Web: www.nfid.org/publications/hcwmonograph.pdf.