Movement on for mandatory flu shots

The movement for mandatory flu shots in medical facilities is beginning to catch on, according to a recent report by

Medical facilities plead with their employees to get annual flu shots, sometimes kicking off educational campaigns as early as August. Despite these efforts, according to the report, vaccination rates rarely rise above 50 percent.

A Centers for Disease Control report published in April showed that 62 percent of healthcare workers were vaccinated against seasonal influenza, but only 31 percent had been vaccinated against H1N1. Rates have never risen above 49 percent in previous years, according to the report.

Two large healthcare systems in the U.S. have both implemented mandatory flu shot policies within the last two years and have seen compliance rates rise to 98 percent, the report said.

St. Louis–based BJC HealthCare made influenza vaccines a condition of employment. In 2008. The 26,000 employee healthcare system saw a 98 percent compliance rate. Approximately 90 religious exceptions were made and 320 medical exceptions were made.

Dr. Hilary M. Babcock, assistant professor of medicine and medical director of occupational health at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's Hospitals, told that, prior to the mandatory flu shot policy, the system did not climb above a 71 percent compliance rate.

“We really just thought that we had pretty much exhausted all of the voluntary efforts,” Babcock told “Despite all of these many years of trying, we really hadn't gotten to where we wanted to be. So that's really what drove the decision to decide on the mandatory policy. We really felt it was an important patient safety issue to get our staff vaccinated.”

In November 2009, the Hospital Corporation of America in Nashville implemented a similar mandatory flu shot policy. Under their policy, employees were given the choice between getting the flu shot or having to wear a surgical mask in patient care areas.

Approximately 96 percent of its 140,599 employees complied with the new policy.