Hospitals are increasingly requiring employees to get a flu shot each year to prevent the spread of infection.
Flu shots for health care workers might seem like a no-brainer, but it's a challenge for hospitals to get their staffs fully vaccinated every flu season. Increasingly, they're resorting to mandatory vaccines. Get the shot, or lose your job.
A new study from the University of Michigan turned up an interesting exception to that trend: VA hospitals.
Todd Greene is an author on the study. He says VA hospitals may be using other strategies to encourage their staffs to get flu shots. He notes that a lack of mandatory vaccination for staff does not necessarily mean the hospital has a corresponding low rate of staff vaccination. Other types of incentives can be very effective.
“The Minneapolis VA health care system improved their vaccination rates from less than 25 percent to greater than 65 by implementing these mobile carts to facilitate the delivery of vaccinations,” says Greene.
One factor that could explain the difference is that many non-VA hospitals have been required to publicly report flu vaccination rates under a program with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.
Under the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program, hospitals report their percentage of vaccinated workers to the Centers for Disease Control, and those results are posted online. For hospitals that participate in that program, 90 percent of workers are vaccinated.
Among all hospitals without mandatory flu shots, only 41 percent required unvaccinated workers to wear masks, and only 21 percent had any kind of penalty for not complying with the hospital’s vaccination policy.
Among hospitals with mandatory vaccine policies, all had formal policies allowing workers to decline. Thirteen percent of those allowed the worker to decline for any reason. A majority required workers to provide a medical or religious justification for refusing a flu vaccination.