ISDA calls for mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers

The Infectious Diseases Society of America has formally requested in a July 15 letter that the Centers for Disease Control recommend mandatory vaccinations for influenza for healthcare workers.

The letter, written by ISDA President Richard Whitely, M.D., comments on the CDC’s proposed revisions to its guidance for controlling influenza in healthcare settings. The guidance, revised in June, stresses the importance of vaccinating for influenza, but falls short of requiring it, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

"We feel the CDC should provide a definitive recommendation for mandatory influenza vaccination of healthcare providers," Whitely wrote. "IDSA supports universal immunization of HCWs against seasonal influenza by health care institutions (inpatient and outpatient) through mandatory vaccination programs, as these programs are likely to be the most effective means to protect patients against the transmission of seasonal influenza by healthcare workers.”

The ISDA believes that healthcare workers that are unable to be vaccinated or will not wear surgical masks for religious or medical reasons should not be involved in duties that require patient care, CIDRAP News reports. The revised June guidance also relaxes the CDC’s respiratory control policy, advising the use of a surgical mask when dealing with flu patients, as opposed to an N-95 respirator, unless during aerosol generating procedures.

Whitely argues that education programs, declination policies and increased access to the influenza vaccine have only moderately increased overall coverage in the healthcare sector to between 40 and 70 percent, short of what he considers acceptable.

“Mandating such a policy emphasizes that this is a patient safety issue,” Whitely's letter said. The CDC should consider, at a minimum, a stronger statement in favor of mandatory influenza vaccination in the proposed guidelines.”