Less Than Half of Hospitals Require Providers Receive the Flu Vaccine

Despite recommendations that all healthcare workers are vaccinated against the flu, a study from the University of Michigan found that more than half of hospitals do not require healthcare providers get the influenza vaccine.

Despite recommendations that all healthcare workers are vaccinated against the flu, a study from the University of Michigan found that more than half of hospitals do not require healthcare providers get the influenza vaccine.

The study, published in Infection Control and Hospital Endocrinology, found that overall vaccination coverage of healthcare providers is estimated at 75.2%. However, in settings that make getting the vaccine mandatory, vaccination coverage exceeds 95%. The study is based on results of a survey held in 2013.

“Vaccination of healthcare workers has been shown to significantly reduce patients’ risk of influenza and its complications, including pneumonia and death, compared with vaccination of patients alone,” Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH, senior author of the new study and the George Dock professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “To put it bluntly, American hospitals have a lot of work to do.”

Overall, only 42.7% of respondents said their hospital required flu vaccination of healthcare providers, but at VA hospitals the rate was much lower—only 1.3%. The major barriers to hospitals requiring the flu vaccine was opposition from healthcare worker unions and concerns about staff opposition.

Nearly one-fourth (22%) of non-VA hospitals “strongly encouraged” providers get vaccinated and 21% of respondents said that their hospital required unvaccinated staff sign a form that explained they had declined to get the flu vaccine or required them to wear a mask while seeing patients during flu season.

“Mandated vaccinations are not a simple panacea and will continue to be met with challenges and opposition for numerous reasons,” said M. Todd Greene, PhD, MPH, lead author of the new study and a research investigator at the University of Michigan and the VA. “But our findings suggest that opportunities remain for many healthcare organizations to require vaccination of their staff to increase coverage rates.”