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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Take a Shot at Decreasing Hospital Acquired Infections and Enhancing National Health Security

Author: Domestic Policy Branch, HHS/ASPR Office of Strategy, Policy, Planning and Requirements
Published Date: 11/6/2019 10:18:00 AM
Category: National Health Security; Hospital Preparedness; Public Health Preparedness;

A Case for Encouraging Seasonal Influenza Vaccination among Healthcare Workers

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed approximately 675,000 people in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Although that number is daunting, it doesn't take a pandemic for influenza to seriously threaten patient health.  The disease burden for seasonal flu is still stunning 100 years later. While flu varies in severity, every year in the U.S., flu sickens millions, hospitalizes hundreds of thousands and kills tens of thousands.

How can hospitals and healthcare facilities help stop the spread of flu and protect their clinicians, staff, and patients? Start by encouraging clinicians and staff to get a seasonal flu vaccine each year, which provides important protection against flu and its potentially serious consequences.

CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) recommend that all U.S. healthcare workers get vaccinated annually against influenza.  Yet about one in five healthcare workers are not getting vaccinated to protect themselves – and their patients – from the morbidity and mortality associated with seasonal flu.  More concerning, nearly one in three healthcare workers in long-term care settings, such as nursing homes, do not get their seasonal flu vaccinations.

Vaccinating healthcare workers helps prevent the spread of healthcare acquired flu infections, as recently emphasized in the National Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare Associated Infections. Hospital acquired cases of flu threaten everyday health, but they would also severely complicate treatment during a public health emergency.

In the event of a severe flu season, hospitals and healthcare facilities will need to surge to care for patients. Increasing flu vaccination among healthcare workers decreases the incidence of healthcare worker absenteeism due to sickness or doctors' visits, and the likelihood that healthcare workers will infect or be infected by people who have come to their facilities seeking treatment.  It is one simple action that protects both everyday health and strengthens national health security.

The good news is that programs to encourage healthcare workers to get vaccinated make a difference. According to CDC, vaccination rates among healthcare workers are highest when their workplaces require vaccination or offer on-site vaccination at low or no cost.

If you manage a hospital or healthcare facility, there are many reasons to encourage your staff to get vaccinated – from the cost savings associated with lower rates of absenteeism among staff to the national security implications of influenza on surge capacity. It doesn't matter which reason motivates you the most, as long as you encourage your staff to get vaccinated. Ready to take the next steps?  Learn about additional steps your hospital or healthcare facility can take to promote vaccination in the work place.


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