You may be recommending the flu vaccine to everyone coming through the door at your clinic, but are your employees following your own recommendation? If not, should you mandate flu shots for the urgent care staff?
It’s a topic of much debate. But the answer is yes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Each agency recommends all U.S. health care workers get vaccinated annually against the flu.
During the early 2014-2015 season (November) flu vaccination among health care workers was 64.3 percent. That’s higher than the national rate of 47.1 percent from last flu season, but it’s not great.
A 2013 study found that vaccination coverage climbed to 96.5 percent in health care facilities requiring the vaccine. Vaccination coverage was 76.9 percent among health care workers at facilities where employers promoted but did not require vaccination.
A Cincinnati-area healthcare system issued termination notices to 150 employees the day before Thanksgiving after they missed the deadline for required flu shots. Those TriHealth employees were given one last chance—to get a flu shot by Dec. 3 to keep their jobs. This is the third year TriHealth has required all of its 10,000 employees to get flu shots, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The flu shot requirement may be even more relevant for urgent care employees because most clinics offer the vaccine to other employers through occupational medicine outreach.
“Getting a flu shot is one of the easiest and safest ways to protect yourself from illness this time of year. Those who work in and for healthcare organizations should understand that better than anyone,” said David Stern, MD, CEO of Practice Velocity, where employees who get flu shots are offered a discount on their health insurance premium.
Here are some more reasons to require or promote flu shots for employees at your urgent care center:
- A lot of people get the flu. Each year it sickens 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population – hospitalizing more than 200,000 people and killing around 36,000 people. Getting the vaccine is the best protection.
- Having vaccinated workers improves patient safety. A recent CDC review found health care workers can transmit the flu to patients they come into contact with. A study cited by the National Institute of Health found that if all health care workers in a facility were vaccinated, then approximately 60 percent of patient influenza infections could be prevented. Getting vaccinated against the flu falls in line with the obligations of health care professionals to do no harm, to do good, to respect patient autonomy, and to treat all patients fairly.
- Conversely, getting the vaccine can protect employees from getting sick if they come into contact with patients with the flu. Studies show those who get the flu vaccine are less likely to be hospitalized by the flu. Even if they do get the flu after being vaccinated, it’s usually a milder case.
What should you tell employees who are worried about getting the flu from the vaccine? The flu shot does not cause the flu. Vaccines are made with either an inactive virus or no virus at all. The most common side effects from the flu shot are: soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the shot. Low-grade fever, headache or muscle ache is also possible.