By Lisa Schnirring Staff Writer
Feb 7, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – Federal vaccine advisors today unveiled proposed voluntary recommendations for increasing flu vaccination in healthcare workers, sparking strong reactions from employee groups who object to language that stops just short of urging mandatory vaccination.
The draft proposal was developed by a working group from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), outside experts who assist the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with vaccine policy issues. In November 2010 they were asked to come up with strategies for reaching the 90% level for healthcare worker flu vaccination included in the Healthy People 2010 goals.
Some observers have questioned if the 90% mark is more of an “aspirational” goal than an attainable one. In past years, less than half of healthcare workers have received the seasonal flu vaccine. In December the CDC said it was cautiously optimistic this season, based on a November 2011 Internet panel survey of healthcare workers that found that 63% had been vaccinated at that point.
The number of hospitals adopting mandatory flu vaccination policies for healthcare workers is growing. The issue is a flashpoint with employee groups, however, who support vaccination and other efforts to control the spread of flu but believe workers should have the right to opt out for health, religious, or personal reasons.
Christine Nevin-Woods, DO, MPH, who cochairs the working group, presented the draft recommendations to the full NVAC board today. She is public health director of the Pueblo City-County Health Department in Colorado.
The process included a literature review of evidence-based strategies, several meetings with subject-matter experts, as well as feedback from a public Web conference and letters submitted by the public, which she said are still coming in.
She said the five-part recommendation reflects the opinion of the majority of the working group, with 24 of 27 of its members voting anonymously on each part. The report she presented included vote totals and fleshed-out majority and minority positions for each part.