Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America calls for mandatory flu vaccinations

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has called for mandatory flu vaccinations for all healthcare personnel in a recently released position paper jointly released with the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The statement comes on the heels of a position paper recently published in Infection Control and Healthcare Epidemiology and endorsed by IDSA, which concluded that flu vaccination for healthcare workers is a professional and ethical responsibility.

The authors of the paper also posited that non-compliance with healthcare facility policies regarding vaccination should not be tolerated.

SHEA officials said that all recommendations made in the ISDA paper should apply to all healthcare professionals in all healthcare settings. SHEA officials said its recommendations also extend to students, volunteers and contract workers.

SHEA president Dr. Neil Fishman said the only exemption should be in cases of medical contraindications.

“The transmission of influenza in healthcare settings is a substantial safety concern for both patients and healthcare personnel and deserves our attention and action,” Fishman said. “Healthcare providers are ethically obligated to take measures proven to keep patients from acquiring influenza in healthcare settings. Mandatory vaccination is the cornerstone to a comprehensive program designed to prevent the spread of influenza which also includes identification and isolation of infected patients, adherence to hand hygiene and cough etiquette, the appropriate use of protective equipment, and restriction of ill healthcare personnel and visitors in the facility.”

The position paper comes as healthcare professionals across the nation are gearing up for the 2010-2011 flu season.

“The scientific evidence shows significant reductions in the risk of influenza in both acute and long-term care settings as a result of strong immunization policies and programs,” IDSA president Dr. Richard Whitley said. “Vaccination of healthcare personnel saves patients’ lives and reduces illness. It also protects the individual worker from falling ill during influenza outbreaks and from missing work, which further impacts patient care.”