Making flu shots mandatory in 2008 dramatically increased the vaccination rate among St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare's nearly 26,000 employees to more than 98 percent, according to a report now online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The study's lead author, infectious disease specialist Hilary Babcock, M.D., says the success of the mandatory program demonstrates it is possible to implement a vaccination campaign on a large scale in a health-care setting.
"As a patient safety initiative, we knew the flu shot was safe and effective, and the best way to protect patients was to be sure that employees were vaccinated," she says.
For 10 years, BJC affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine offered the influenza vaccine free of charge to its employees, conducted extensive education campaigns about the benefits of the shot and provided incentives to employees. While vaccination rates were consistently above the national average, they remained below BJC's target of 80 percent. The nonprofit health care organization includes 13 hospitals in St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri.
In 2006, 54 percent of BJC employees received the influenza vaccine, only slightly above average for health-care workers nationwide. In 2007, BJC employees who declined to get a flu shot were asked to sign a statement saying they understood the risk to themselves, their patients and their families. That year, the vaccination rose to 71 percent, still below BJC's target rate.
Then in 2008, with a focus on patient safety, BJC made the influenza vaccine mandatory for all its employees, regardless of whether they worked directly with patients. Again, the health system provided educational programs about the benefits of the vaccine and made the shot available at no charge to employees at multiple times and locations.
Employees could request religious or medical exemptions, which were reviewed by human reso
|Contact: Caroline Arbanas|
Washington University School of Medicine