New recommendations approved it increase flu vaccinations for healthcare workers

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services committee recently approved a new set of recommendations designed to increase influenza vaccine use among healthcare workers.

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee has issued a five-part recommendation that gives health facilities a clear strategy to reach the Healthy People 2020 goal that 90 percent of healthcare workers be vaccinated against the flu. The NVAC consists of outside health experts that advise the HHS on vaccine policy, according to CIDRAP News.

A subgroup within the NVAC has been preparing the document since November 2010. The recommendations stop short of urging healthcare facilities to mandate flu vaccinations if the national goal is not readily achieved.

The full committee was originally slated to vote on the measure earlier in the week, but delayed action for a day in order to consider a round of new public comments. The NVAC used the time to address questions about whether their deliberations excluded the views of healthcare workers and possibly violated rules governing the federal oversight of advisory committees, CIDRAP News reports.

The recommendations urge U.S. healthcare facilities to establish infection control and education programs for their workers and to push federal health officials to standardize methods used to evaluate healthcare worker vaccination rates. If these measures do not succeed, the NVAC advises healthcare employers to introduce mandatory flu vaccination policies.

The suggestion of mandatory vaccinations elicited strong reactions from employee groups that continue to have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. They fear hospitals may use the NVAC guidelines as a license to institute mandatory vaccination policies.