Guest Blog: Flu Vaccine Mandate
The following is a guest blog by Rich Krisher, editor of ADVANCE for Nurses, our sister publication.
It's the middle of summer and flu season seems a long way off, but a new Joint Commission requirement that went into effect July 1 serves as a reminder about an often controversial topic: mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers.
The Joint Commission is not mandating influenza vaccine for accredited organizations, but it is establishing a fairly aggressive plan toward that end. Starting July 1, 2012, and continuing in phases until July 1, 2013, accredited organizations must establish annual influenza vaccination programs for all staff and licensed independent practitioners. They must educate staff and practitioners about the vaccine; control and prevention measures outside the vaccination regime; and the diagnosis, transmission and impact of influenza.
Organizations must create a plan to meet incremental goals on the way to achieving a 90 percent flu vaccination rate by 2020. With the current rate among healthcare workers below 60 percent, that's more than a 50 percent increase.
A handful of states have laws covering flu vaccination for healthcare workers, but most often it's a condition enforced by individual employers. It's been a hot-button topic in recent years, and an online cottage industry has sprung up to advise healthcare workers of their rights and exemptions regarding such mandates. "I've developed guidelines that have helped hundreds of people and families around the U.S. successfully avoid vaccines in over a dozen different exemption contexts," writes North Carolina attorney Alan Phillips at his website, www.vaccinerights.com.
On the other side is the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), which is supported in part by the CDC. "The best way to prevent transmission of influenza to our patients is to mandate vaccination of healthcare workers," reads the introduction to the IAC's Honor Roll for Patient Safety, which includes more than 150 healthcare organizations in 38 states that have influenza vaccination mandates.
The Joint Commission is calling for a program that mirrors state laws requiring healthcare employers to offer flu vaccines and education. It's a common-sense approach to address the long-standing problem of low vaccination rates among healthcare workers, who are in a great position to curb the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
Does your employer require you to receive a vaccine as a condition of employment? What do you think about the trend?