Starting next year, UPMC will implement a universal influenza immunization policy for all staff working in clinical locations. The current policy strongly encourages employees to get the flu shot. The reason for the new policy is primarily patient safety.
“We know that every year, in every single health care facility in this country, there’s going to be situations where people are at risk of contracting the flu from another health care worker or from another patient, and the flu happens every year,” said David Nace, chief of medical affairs for UPMC Senior Communities. “If we can do something to cut that risk, and cut the chance of another patient contracting influenza, it’s worthwhile for us to do it.”
The vaccine will be required for anyone who comes into contact with patients, from nurses to people who clean patient rooms. The policy requires those who opt out to complete an educational program on the vaccine, and then acknowledge they understand the risks of not getting one. That policy will remain in place for non-clinical workers.
Employees who have a medical condition and can’t get the vaccine will be exempt from the policy.
The vaccination rate among UPMC employees rose 10 percent after the current policy was implemented; officials said about 80 percent of UPMC employees get vaccinated. Nace reiterated that patient safety is the driving factor.
“Influenza is related to a lot of illness,” he said. “There are a number of deaths each year, up as high as 49,000 each year and when you look at those deaths, the influenza vaccine is able to prevent many of those."
Numerous national health advisory organizations, including the American Hospital Association, Infectious Disease Society of America and American College of Physicians, support mandatory influenza immunization for health care workers. UPMC joins Johns Hopkins University Hospitals, Mayo Clinic and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the mandatory vaccination policy.
The universal influenza vaccine policy takes effect for the 2015-2016 flu season.