Mandatory staff vaccination promising

Following four years of observation, Loyola University Medical Center authorities have comfortably concluded that the mandatory influenza vaccination plan put forth for employees has resulted in few terminations and increased viral security.

Researchers behind the implementation and analysis of the active declination system — which got its official start in 2008 — presented their approach at the 40th Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology on June 9, noting the stable, high vaccination rate and the lessening termination percentage over time.

"`First, do no harm' is our mandate as healthcare workers," said Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, study author and professor of medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, in a prepared statement. "We should do all we can to not pass along illness to our patients."

Initial steps in the declination process involved prompting hospital personnel to provide information (“yes” or “no” on an Employee Health questionnaire) regarding their vaccination status as well as reasoning behind why vaccination was declined in cases pertinent. According to statics, this step alone increased the vaccination rate to 72 percent amongst the facility’s staff — well above the Center for Disease Control and Prevention preferred 60 percent.

"This was still well short of what we at Loyola felt we should achieve to maximize patient safety," said Parada. "After all, this still meant more than one in four staff were not being immunized. In addition, let's not forget that as healthcare workers our staff are at greater risk than the general population for exposure to the flu virus, and we also have a fiduciary responsibility to try and protect our HCP (and by extension, their families) from becoming ill. Vaccination provides that added protection."

Vaccination was made a mandate of employment in 2009 and was therein also extended to students, volunteers and contractors as a necessary provision. Videos and widely dispersed emails allowed for continued clarity and support on the grounds of the program.

Changes over the fours years regarding vaccination and termination rates were recorded as follows:

All data and information courtesy of Loyola University Medical Center. Presentation by PhysBizTech.

What’s more, Prada insisted that the 2012 numbers were even better than stated, as only five employees refused vaccination, three of which were unpaid volunteers who later reconsidered and two who were only part-time employees with only a 10 percent time commitment to the facility (reflective of a 0.002 percent vaccine refusal rate). Overall, only 15 HCPs of 8,000 in four years decided against vaccination.

"Near-universal flu immunization is achievable and sustainable with a mandatory vaccination policy," Parada concluded.. "Our employees and associates now understand that this is the way we do business. Just as construction workers must wear steel-toed boots and hard hats on job sites, healthcare workers should get a flu shot to work in a hospital. We believe that patient and staff safety have been enhanced as a result."