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Flu vaccination rate at large, Midwest health system rises dramatically due to mandatory policy
Date:2/3/2010

urces and occupational health nurses, respectively. Interestingly, many fewer employees sought medical or religious exemptions than had signed declination statements in the previous year.

Overall, 25,561 (98.4 percent) of BJC employees received an influenza vaccine in 2008. In addition, 90 employees (.3 percent) received religious exemptions, and 321 (1.2 percent) received medical exemptions. Medical exemptions included severe allergy to eggs, prior allergic reactions to the flu vaccine and a history of Guillain-Barr syndrome.

"Some of the requests for medical exemptions reflected misinformation about the vaccine and influenza," says Babcock, an associate professor of medicine, who conducted the study with senior author Keith Woeltje, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine. For example, some requests cited asthma, cancer or a suppressed immune system, even though these conditions increase the risk of flu-related complications and are reasons to get vaccinated.

In all, eight employees were terminated because they were not vaccinated or granted an exemption. Most of these employees did not submit an exemption request.

Babcock attributes success of the program to the support of hospital leadership and consistent communication from BJC staff that emphasized patient safety. "Overall, the program went very smoothly," she says. "We were able to talk with the people who had concerns about the vaccine and allay their fears. A large number of employees were really glad that we had made it mandatory and that co-workers were being vaccinated."

At the two teaching hospitals that are part of BJC HealthCare, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital, all 907 medical residents and fellows complied with the mandatory policy; five received medical or religious exemptions.

Although physicians employed by BJC were required to get the flu shot, most physicians affiliated with BJC HealthCare are in private practic
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Contact: Caroline Arbanas
arbanasc@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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