The American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest professional medical organization to embrace the idea of making yearly influenza vaccinations a requirement for HCWs (Health Care Workers).
The AAP – which boasts a membership of roughly 60,000 pediatricians – released the following statement yesterday (slightly reparagraphed for readability).
For Immediate Release:
Health-care associated influenza outbreaks are a common and serious public health problem that contribute significantly to patient morbidity and mortality and create a financial burden on health care systems.
In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all health care personnel should be required to receive an annual influenza vaccine. The policy, "Recommendation for Mandatory Influenza Immunization of All Health Care Personnel," published in the October 2010 print issue of Pediatrics (published online Sept. 13), states that "despite the efforts of many organizations to improve influenza immunization rates with the use of voluntary campaigns, influenza coverage among health care personnel remains unacceptably low."
While there remains a good deal of opposition among the rank and file of HCWs to mandatory flu vaccinations, over the past year or two the idea has gained increasing support among professional organizations such as SHEA, IDSA, and APIC.
In response to what many felt was a tepid policy, Richard Whitley, MD president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), wrote an open letter to CDC director Thomas Frieden urging that these guidelines include mandatory influenza vaccination.
Less than two-weeks ago SHEA (Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America) released a similar position paper (see SHEA: Mandatory Vaccination Of Health Care Workers).
While many infection control experts see this as a long overdue step in patient and co-worker protection, the obstacles that lay before these sorts of policies are substantial.
This is a hugely divisive issue, with many HCWs believing that it is an infringement of their rights to decide what will be injected into their bodies.
There will almost certainly be legal challenges, and possibly labor disputes as well.
Last year New York State attempted to require vaccination as a requirement to work as a HCW, but lawsuits and vaccine shortages forced them to abandon – at least temporarily – that mandate (see New York Rescinds Mandatory Flu Shots For HCWs).
I’ve covered HCW’s objections to forced flu shots in the past, including:
Only a handful of large hospitals have managed to implement mandatory flu vaccinations, including Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center and BJC Heathcare of St. Louis, Missouri which I blogged about here.
The backing of AAP, IDSA, SHEA and APIC most certainly adds gravitas to the movement - but without government regulatory backing – it remains to be seen just how many health care facilities are going to be willing to pioneer these sorts of policies on their own.
But love the idea or hate it, this is an issue that isn’t going to be going away anytime soon.