Organization representing 340 companies supports mandatory healthcare worker flu shots

An organization representing 340 U.S. companies recently came out in support of mandatory flu shots for healthcare workers.

Helen Darling, the president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, told a news conference that seasonal influenza placed increased costs on U.S. businesses, according to

"Transmission of seasonal influenza between health care workers and patients is a significant patient and worker safety issue," Darling said, reports. "Failure to prevent the transmission of seasonal flu between health care workers and patients also increases health costs."

Currently, many hospitals have adopted mandatory vaccination requirements as a condition of employment unless applicants are able to prove a medical contraindication. If employees are not immunized, they are generally required to wear a face mask when interacting with high risk patients.

"Requiring flu vaccinations for hospital personnel is the right thing to do," Darling said, according to "Hospitals have an obligation to prevent the spread of infection to patients in their care. It's a fitness-for-duty issue. At the same time, patients have the right to assume that health care personnel and the organizations that employ them will take all reasonable measures to reduce and avoid transmission of preventable diseases, including the flu."

The push for mandatory flu-vaccination policies has increased over the last two years. In fall 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America backed the idea, followed by the American Hospital Association in 2011.

This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Advisory Committee recommended that healthcare facilities unable to achieve a 90 percent vaccination rate consider adopting mandatory policies.

The American Medical Association supports universal vaccination for healthcare workers, but has stopped short of endorsing a mandatory approach.