Hospitals won't lose workers with mandatory flu shots

Mandatory influenza vaccinations did not drive hoards of healthcare workers to voluntarily terminate employment at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, according to a four-year analysis of vaccination rates. In fact, almost all complied with the mandate.

In 2008, Loyola introduced an active declination system, in which all healthcare personnel had to state "yes" or "no" when asked to receive a vaccine and provide a reason for declining, and saw its overall vaccination rate rise to 72 percent.

Then in 2009, Loyola became one of the first U.S. medical centers to make flu vaccination a condition of employment--a mandate it extended to students, volunteers and contractors. During that year, 99.2 percent of employees received the vaccine, 0.7 percent was exempted for religious/medical reasons, and 0.1 percent chose termination over vaccination.

The hospital's 2012 numbers showed progress, with 98.7 percent of employees vaccinated, 1.2 percent exempted and 0.06 percent refused.

"Our employees and associates now understand that this is the way we do business. Just as construction workers must wear steel-toed boots and hard hats on job sites, healthcare workers should get a flu shot to work in a hospital," study author Jorge Parada, M.D., and professor of medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said today in a statement.

The national average for healthcare personnel vaccination totals 64 percent, according to the study.

Loyola's findings come only days after the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services updated its infection-prevention action plan, calling for 75 percent of all healthcare workers to receive flu vaccinations by 2015.

With such compliance, more healthcare organizations may follow Loyola's lead and embrace a mandatory vaccination policy, especially in light of February research that found healthcare workers are exposed to flu through routine patient care much more than previously thought.

For more:
- here's the research announcement
- check out the new HHS action plan