State law and influenza vaccination of health care personnel

George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services, Department of Health Policy, 2021 K St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006, United States. Electronic address: .
Vaccine (Impact Factor: 3.62). 12/2012; 31(5). DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.11.063
Source: PubMed


Nosocomial influenza outbreaks, attributed to the unvaccinated health care workforce, have contributed to patient complications or death, worker illness and absenteeism, and increased economic costs to the health care system. Since 1981, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all HCP receive an annual influenza vaccination. Health care employers (HCE) have adopted various strategies to encourage health care personnel (HCP) to voluntarily receive influenza vaccination, including: sponsoring educational and promotional campaigns, increasing access to seasonal influenza vaccine, permitting the use of declination statements, and combining multiple approaches. However, these measures failed to significantly increase uptake among HCP. As a result, beginning in 2004, health care facilities and local health departments began to require certain HCP to receive influenza vaccination as a condition of employment and annually. Today, hundreds of facilities throughout the country have developed and implemented similar policies. Mandatory vaccination programs have been endorsed by professional and non-profit organizations, state health departments, and public health. These programs have been more effective at increasing coverage rates than any voluntary strategy, with some health systems reporting coverage rates up to 99.3%. Several states have enacted laws requiring HCEs to implement vaccination programs for the workforce. These laws present an example of how states will respond to threats to the public's health and constrain personal choice in order to protect vulnerable populations. This study analyzes laws in twenty states that address influenza vaccination requirements for HCP who practice in acute or long-term care facilities in the United States. The laws vary in the extent to which they incorporate the six elements of a mandatory HCP influenza vaccination program. Four of the twenty states have adopted a broad definition of HCP or HCE. While 16/20 of the laws require employers to "provide," "arrange for," "ensure," "require" or "offer" influenza vaccinations to HCP, only four states explicitly require HCEs to cover the cost of vaccination. Fifteen of the twenty laws allow HCP to decline the vaccination due to medical contraindication, religious or philosophical beliefs, or by signing a declination statement. Finally, three states address how to sanction noncompliant HCPs. The analysis also discusses the development of a model legal policy that legislators could use as they draft and revise influenza prevention guidelines in health care settings.

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    ABSTRACT: Using qualitative methods, we explore the implementation of California's 2007 influenza immunization requirements of hospital-based health care personnel (HCP). We conducted nine case studies of California hospitals with different HCP vaccination rates and policies. Case studies consisted of interviewing 13 hospital representatives and analyzing relevant hospital documents, including influenza policies. We also conducted 13 semi-structured phone interviews with key state and county public health officials, union representatives, and officials of various professional healthcare organizations. Our qualitative results complement our quantitative findings reported elsewhere and suggest that California's vaccination requirements likely did not increase influenza vaccination uptake among HCP. The law was not strong enough to compel hospitals with low and medium vaccination rates to improve their vaccination efforts, and hospitals with high vaccination rates were able to comply fully with the law by continuing to do what they were already doing - namely offering vaccinations to HCP, providing education about the risks of influenza and the benefits of vaccination, and obtaining signed declinations from those who refuse vaccination. Nonetheless, we found that by publicly raising the issue of influenza vaccination in the context of public safety and healthcare quality, California's law encouraged hospitals to develop and implement data systems to monitor the effectiveness of vaccination promotion efforts and prompted discussions, and, in some cases, adoption of stricter vaccination requirements at hospital or county levels. Our findings generally support the literature that suggests that permissive influenza vaccination requirements, though politically feasible, provide little direct incentive for hospitals to focus efforts on increasing HCP vaccination rates.
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