Organizing year-round immunization programs for healthcare workers (HCWs) is already challenging for Employee Health (EH) departments and Occupational Medicine (OccMed) clinics. But ensuring that HCWs receive their annual flu shot is crucial to the health of both practitioners and their patients, and it’s doubly challenging during the current pandemic when EH and OccMed employees are also responsible for managing new COVID vaccines and boosters.1
Below, we’ll look at some strategies for a successful flu immunization campaign and vaccine reporting, even in the face of the pandemic.
Identify Challenges to Influenza Immunization Campaigns
The CDC estimates that 75.9% of HCWs received the influenza vaccine in 2020–21, down from 80.7% the previous year. This decrease was most significant among physician assistants/aides, whose flu vaccination rates decreased by 10.8% and who have the lowest flu vaccination rate of all HCWs (at 64.8%).2 However, employer mandates were associated with the highest flu vaccine rates among HCWs of all kinds.3
EH departments and OccMed professionals working to conserve healthcare resources by minimizing the risks of influenza are facing several challenges in light of the COVID pandemic, including:
- General vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about the safety and usefulness of vaccines.4
- Vaccine fatigue.5
- Vaccine or equipment (such as needle) shortages if departments don’t plan ahead.6
- Confusion about federal and state vaccine mandates and which vaccines they apply to.7
- Political or moral opposition to vaccination, in general.8
These challenges all arise in addition to the ideological and organizational challenges posed by the COVID pandemic and its changing vaccine requirements for healthcare workers.9
Improve Vaccination Rates Among Healthcare Workers
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all HCWs receive an annual influenza vaccination to reduce flu-related morbidity and mortality among HCWs and their patients. Getting the flu shot also reduces absenteeism among HCWs, alleviating pressure on the facility’s other staff. 10
To improve vaccination rates among HCWs, EH departments and OccMed professionals may consider instituting influenza vaccine requirements for staff.11 Here are some suggestions for making any immunization program more successful, especially in light of the COVID pandemic and changing regulations on vaccines:
- Institute formal vaccine requirements and clearly communicate the vaccine policy to staff members.
- Implement educational campaigns that address staff questions and doubts, fears, and concerns (over side effects, for example).
- Decide how to deal with and who will will preside over the granting of exemptions and waivers.
- Appeal to employee union leadership to encourage compliance.
- Make vaccination free, easy, and convenient for staff (including mobile vaccine units and events with free vaccines).
- Encourage management to be visibly supportive of the flu vaccine campaign.
- Keep accurate records of employee vaccination status.
- Evaluate the outcomes of the immunization program each year (tracking vaccination rates and infections, for example).
- Assure employees about the privacy of their medical data and its separation from employment data.
- Plan ahead to ensure an adequate vaccine supply for all employees (and, in some cases, volunteers, researchers, temporary workers, clergy, and contractors that will be on-site).
Employ Vaccine Tracking Software to Improve Compliance
The best way to organize and sustain an immunization campaign and ensure compliance with facility, state, and federal requirements during the COVID pandemic and flu season is to use vaccine tracking tools.
Tracking and compliance software can help reduce the manual labor associated with recording employee vaccine forms and aid in communicating requirements and deadlines to employees. A good software suite can also help EH and OccMed staff run compliance reports for different organizational, professional, and public health entities.
Good compliance starts with implementing a good immunization management program. To learn more about how Employee Health departments and Occupational Medicine clinics can maintain accurate vaccine information, check out our ebook Immunization Management for Employee Health and Occupational Medicine.
Net Health’ Employee Health and Occupational Medicine Mobile Immunization Tracking platform make immunization tracking faster, safer, and more accurate, allowing your facility to stay more compliant. Schedule a demo to learn more about our comprehensive software solution.
3 Immunization Management
Tips for Employee Health
and Occupational Medicine Staff
1 Association of Immunization Managers, “Flu Vaccination in a Pandemic Leadership Lessons from Public Health Immunization Programs,” 2020.
2 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Influenza Vaccination Coverage Among Health Care Personnel — United States, 2020–21 Influenza Season,” October 7, 2021.
3 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Increase Influenza Vaccination Coverage among your Health Care Personnel,” November 2, 2020.
4 Health Psychology Research, “COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Among Healthcare Providers,” April 26, 2022.
5 American Heart Association, “How to Keep ‘Vaccine Fatigue’ From Getting in the Way of a Flu Shot,” September 23, 2022.
6 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Current Vaccine Shortages & Delays,” May 11, 2022.
7 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “State Immunization Laws for Healthcare Workers and Patients,” November 19, 2014.
8 American Public Health Association, “Annual Influenza Vaccination Requirements for Health Workers,” November 9, 2010.
9 Health.mil, “COVID-19, Influenza Provide Twice the Challenge to Healthcare Workers,” February 17, 2021.
10 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), “New Study Suggests Increased Flu Vaccination Among U.S. Home Healthcare Workers Could Reduce Patient Illness and Hospitalization,” March 31, 2022.
11 National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit, “Guidance for Leaders/Administrators in Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Facilities Who Plan to Improve Staff Influenza Vaccination Compliance through Vaccination Requirement Policies,” March 7, 2019.