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

Get ready to rumble on mandatory flu shots

You may want to get a ringside seat to what promises to be a lively meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) Feb. 7-8, 2012 in Washington, DC. NVAC is an advisory committee to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Flu recommendations drafted by NVAC’s Healthcare Personnel Influenza Vaccination Subgroup, which are expected to be discussed at this meeting, have drawn the wrath of OSHA and emboldened health care unions. Why? Because these presumably rational and responsible individuals serving in the aforementioned “subgroup” have dared to put mandatory influenza vaccinations for health care workers on the table at the federal level. The comment period ended Jan. 16th on the recommendations, but the HHS declined a request by HIC to release all the submitted documents. From what we have gathered by hook and crook it looks like the traditional infectious disease groups in a melee match with occupational health types, public health policy makers, vaccine researchers and at least one guy who showed up at the wrong meeting. If you’re keeping score, the recommendations under consideration include these:

1: Healthcare facilities should establish comprehensive influenza infection prevention programs as recommended by the CDC as an essential step to achieve the Healthy People 2020 influenza vaccine coverage goal of 90%.

2: Healthcare facilities should integrate influenza vaccination programs into their existing infection prevention programs or occupational health programs.

3: The CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should continue efforts to standardize the methodology used to measure healthcare personnel (HCP) influenza vaccination rates across settings, linking vaccine coverage levels and quality improvement activities. The HHS should also work with CMS to implement incentives, penalties, or requirements that facilitate adoption of this recommendation.

4: Facilities that have implemented the aforementioned recommendations 1, 2 and 3, but cannot achieve the 90% influenza goal in an efficient and timely manner, should strongly consider an employer requirement for influenza immunization.

5: The HHS should encourage ongoing efforts to develop new and improved influenza vaccines and vaccine technologies. This includes support for research, development, and licensure of influenza vaccines with improved immunogenicity and duration of immunity, as well as steps that improve the immunogenicity and rapid production of existing influenza vaccines. Editor’s note: To review the full NVAC draft hit the link.