Flu Vaccine Mandates for Health Care Workers

According to officials, the worst of this year’s devastating flu season should be over in most parts of the country. But in early January, the flu had hit 47 of 50 states. According to the CDC, a total of 78 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported. Throughout this terrible flu season, there’s been much talk about vaccination mandates for health care workers.

States have started passing legislation regulating health care worker flu vaccination, and an increasing number of hospitals have started implementing policies in attempt to reach the Healthy People 2020 goal of having 90 percent of health care workers vaccinated. Only two-thirds of health care workers were vaccinated against the flu last year. This can leave patients at risk and hospitals short-staffed because of absenteeism.

Mary Patricia Nowalk, PhD, RD and Richard Zimmerman, MD, MPH and their colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, conducted a study published last week in the American Journal of Infection Control. In it, Nowalk and Zimmerman report that those hospitals with mandates that had consequences for noncompliance saw higher rates of vaccination than those hospitals without mandates with consequences. In fact, the change in the vaccination rates in hospitals with mandates that included consequences was almost double the rate for hospitals that had mandates without consequences.

We caught up with Rick Zimmerman at our Annual Meeting. In the interview below, he explains his research, including findings from this study.

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