CDC proposes new flu guidelines for healthcare facilities

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a rough draft Wednesday of proposed guidelines for preventing H1N1 and seasonal influenza in a healthcare setting.

The guidelines stopped short, however, of proposing mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers.

CDC officials said that changing circumstances have justified recommendation changes.

“A safe and effective vaccine against the pandemic H1N1 virus is now widely available, and the agency now has a better picture of the number of cases, hospitalization, and deaths, which indicate that the impact of virus is substantially lower than its pre-pandemic assumptions,” CDC officials wrote in a statement, CIDRAP News reports.

Although the CDC did not recommend mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers, advice on how to administer seasonal flu vaccines to healthcare workers remains a top priority.

The CDC guidelines do recommend such strategies as offering incentives, providing free vaccines and requiring staff to sign declination forms to show they are aware of the risks and benefits of vaccination, CIDRAP News reports.

Instead of proposing mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers, the proposed guidelines now provide detailed information on how and when workers with flu should return to work.

Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America President Dr. Neil O. Fishman told CIDRAP News that he was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised by the proposed guidelines. Fishman did note, however, that his only disappointment with the document is lack of a stronger statement about mandatory flu vaccines for healthcare workers.

CDC officials have asked for feedback on the new guidelines by July 22 and said that they intend to complete a final draft before the 2010-2011 flu season.