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American College of Physicians Recommends Flu Vaccination for Health Care Workers

Influenza vaccination of health care workers results in improved patient safety, improved employee safety, and decreased health care expenditures

PHILADELPHIA, October 3, 2007 - The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends that an annual influenza vaccine should be required for every health care worker with direct patient care activities.

Only 36 percent of all health care workers are immunized against influenza each year. Transmission of influenza from health care workers to patients has been documented in nearly every health care setting, and multiple studies show that 70 percent or more of health care workers continue to work despite being ill with influenza, increasing exposure of patients and co-workers.

“Immunizing health care workers safely and effectively prevents a significant number of influenza infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among the patients they care for, as well as preventing workplace disruption and medical errors by workers absent from work due to illness, or present at work but ill,” said Vincenza Snow, MD, FACP, Director, Clinical Programs and Quality of Care at ACP.

Every year, flu infects up to 20 percent of the population, causes the hospitalization of about 200,000 people, and kills 36,000.

Major professional medical societies have endorsed and published recommendations requiring health care workers with direct patient care to be immunized, unless they sign an informed declination. ACP encourages organizations to establish an annual influenza vaccination program, educate staff and physicians about flu vaccination, evaluate vaccination rates and reasons for nonparticipation in the immunization program at the unit level, and implement enhancements to the program to increase participation.

ACP’s influenza vaccination policy exempts health care workers if a medical contraindication to influenza immunization exists, a religious objection to immunization exists, or an informed declination is signed by the health care worker. The full text of the policy can be viewed online.

The American College of Physicians (www.acponline.org) is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 124,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illness in adults.

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