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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

AHA: Get the flu shot or wear the mask

Hospitals gearing up for their annual influenza immunization campaigns this fall have a greater emphasis on mandatory policies to achieve the highest possible coverage of employees. A recent advisory from the American Hospital Association gives the push toward mandatory vaccination of health care workers another surge of momentum.

The AHA stated: “To protect the lives and welfare of patients and hospital employees, the American Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees recently approved a policy supporting mandatory patient safety policies that require either influenza vaccination or wearing a mask in the presence of patients across health care settings during flu season. This policy aims is to achieve the highest possible level of protection.”

In contrast, the American Medical Association has endorsed “universal vaccination” but stopped short of advocating mandatory policies, stating that the medical staff should determine the structure of the programs.

The AHA responded to recommendations from major infection control organizations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, says Nancy Foster, AHA’s vice president for quality and patient safety.

“While the resources needed to implement a mandatory policy are significant, especially in terms of financial and personnel resources, the benefits of protecting vulnerable patients and reducing employee illness and absenteeism far outweigh the costs,” the AHA advisory states. “Further, employee resistance can be overcome through careful education and open communication between hospital leadership and staff, as well as policies that permit certain reasonable exclusions and allow employees who cannot receive influenza.”

Michele Marrill

Special update from our sister publication, Hospital Employee Health