November 11, 2014

VUMC revises flu plan for employees

In an effort to protect both employees and patients at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from potential harm, the Medical Center is revising its influenza vaccination plan and mandating the influenza vaccine for all VUMC employees.

The mandatory program applies to all VUMC employees, faculty, staff, residents and fellows, temporary workers, trainees, volunteers, students, vendors and voluntary medical staff.

The following changes are being implemented to the influenza vaccination exemption process for the 2014-2015 season.

• All VUMC employees must be compliant (vaccinated or exempted) by Dec. 31, 2014.
• Any VUMC employee requesting an exemption to vaccination must do so by Dec. 8, 2014.
• Flu vaccination exemptions are limited to three categories: medical, allergy, and sincerely held religious/personal belief; Personnel who received an exemption prior to Nov. 7, 2014, will be notified if they need to submit a new request.

An executive group established to oversee the exemption process with representation from the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services Department (EAD), Department of Infection Prevention, Occupational Health, General Counsel and Human Resources will review all exemption requests.

“The Medical Center leadership has committed to this plan in the interest of protecting patients, employees and students alike,” said Thomas Talbot, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Medicine and Chief Hospital Epidemiologist. “Vaccination is extremely safe, and remains one of our best methods of preventing influenza infection.

“Each year approximately 250,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die due to influenza infection, making this the sixth leading cause of death among adults in the United States,” Talbot said. “Many of these deaths are preventable,” he said, adding that although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended influenza vaccination for health care personnel since 1981, national surveys show that vaccination coverage levels are only 70 percent. Other large health care systems throughout the country and many hospitals in the Middle Tennessee area have already mandated influenza vaccination for health care personnel, he said.

“At Vanderbilt, while our rates have increased greatly over the years, we have not achieved high enough levels to ensure the protection of our patients and health care personnel despite significant efforts,” he said.

Managers will have access to an influenza vaccine compliance and vaccination tracking tool by Nov. 15. The tool will list VUMC overall compliance and vaccination rates and will allow managers to view the compliance status of the individuals who report to them.

“I am pleased that our Medical Center has committed to mandating influenza vaccination for all employees,” said Paul Sternberg, M.D., VMG Chief Medical Officer, assistant vice chancellor for Adult Health Affairs and associate dean for Clinical Affairs. “We have a duty to take all reasonable measures to protect our workforce and our patients from preventable harm, including mandatory health care personnel vaccination and education of our personnel about the benefits of vaccination and the potential health consequences of influenza illness. Vaccination of health care personnel is associated with reduced influenza illness, work absenteeism, antibiotic use and medical visits.”

Marilyn Dubree, MSN, R.N., Executive Chief Nursing Officer, said the initiative reflects on VUMC’s commitment to its patients, staff and community. “I strongly support our movement in this direction and appreciate the collaborative efforts that have allowed us to advance our planning for the influenza vaccination program,” she said.

For more information, visit http://healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu/occupational-health/flu/index.php to view the 2014-2015 Influenza Vaccination Plan for VUMC Employees and list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).