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June 10, 2013

Study: Flu shot mandates don't trigger staff exodus at hospitals

Daily Briefing

Implementing a policy that requires all hospital workers to receive a flu vaccination as a condition of employment does not trigger excessive terminations, according to a four-year study of vaccination rates at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois.

In 2009, Loyola implemented a vaccine policy crafted by a multidisciplinary task force. The policy established vaccination as a condition of employment and applied to hospital staff, as well as students, volunteers, and contractors. To encourage compliance, the communications staff sent staff-wide emails and displayed short videos on screens throughout the facility.

At the annual meeting for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology on Sunday, researchers presented a study examining the impact of the vaccine policy.

In the first year, 99.2% of hospital workers received the flu vaccine, while 0.7% of workers were exempted for medical or religious reasons. Just 0.1% of workers refused to get a vaccine and opted to terminate their employment.

According to lead study author Jorge Parada, those numbers have held steady. In 2012, five workers refused to obtain a vaccination within the mandate period. However, three of those were unpaid volunteers who later agreed to get the shot and the remaining two were part-time workers.

Overall, fewer than 15 of the 8,000 health workers at the hospital—including volunteers—refused to get vaccination and were subsequently terminated.

"Near-universal flu immunization is achievable and sustainable with a mandatory vaccination policy," Parada concludes, adding, "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" (APIC release, 6/7; Rodak, Becker's Hospital Review, 6/7; McKinney, Modern Healthcare, 6/7 [subscription required]).

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