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

ANA calls for all Nurses to be Immunized for all Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Blame it on measles and roll up your sleeves.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is calling on all nurses to be immunized against all vaccine-preventable diseases unless they have bona fide medical or religious reasons for declining.

The vaccine fight used to be primarily about seasonal flu shots, but measles, mumps, pertussis and other infections have all caused outbreaks in recent years. In particular, measles prompted ANA to toughen its stance. During the first seven months of 2015, 183 people from more than 20 states were reported to have measles, with five outbreaks resulting in the majority of those cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. In contrast, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from the country in 2000 as a result of an effective measles vaccine and a strong vaccination program for children.

However, after some bogus, later withdrawn research attempted a tenuous link between MMR vaccine and autism several years ago, a misguided anti-vaccine movement began to steer their children away from immunization. Foreign visitors from places where measles is still endemic have also contributed to outbreaks, particularly when they are exposed to one of the groups who have refused vaccination. An undiagnosed case of measles sitting in an emergency room can then cause further chaos, as hospitals scramble to track susceptible patients or workers who may have been exposed.

“ANA's new position aligns registered nurses with the best current evidence on immunization safety and preventing diseases such as measles,” says ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “A critical component of a nurse’s job is to educate patients and their family members about the effectiveness of immunization as a safe method of disease prevention to protect not only individuals, but also the public health.”

Health care personnel who request exemption for religious beliefs or medical contraindications should provide documentation from “the appropriate authority” supporting the request, the ANA states. Individuals who are granted exemption “may be required to adopt measures or practices in the workplace to reduce the chance of disease transmission” to patients and others, the new policy indicates.