The Flu Vaccine and Hospital Employees

You are probably hearing it in your department: UMass Memorial is urging employees to get their flu shot. Or, to fill out the form that says you’re not going to get the vaccine.

We’ve heard that the lines were long at the flu shot clinics this year, maybe because there weren’t as many as some years. The flu clinics are all done now, so you if want to get a flu shot, you have to go to your doctor, or to someplace like Walgreens or CVS.

Whether you get the shot or decline, you are supposed to turn in a form to Employee Health:
When flu season does hit here, patient care departments will require unvaccinated employees to wear a mask. Although there have been warnings of discipline surrounding the issue, SHARE has recommended that Human Resources handle individualized problems on a case-by-case basis. SHARE will work with hospital management to problem-solve these issues. To the best of our knowledge, this approach as generally worked out to everyone’s satisfaction in past flu seasons.

Some hospitals moving to require flu shots of all employees

Although some nearby hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, have worked to require the vaccine for eligible employees, it is not mandatory at UMass Memorial (though filling out one of the forms is required).

Johns Hopkins Medicine, a Maryland-based healthcare network requiring employee-vaccination, reports that “Each year, approximately 226,000 are hospitalized and 36,000 people die due to the flu.” On the University campus, researchers at UMass Medical School are studying ways to predict the evolution of the influenza virus to further develop prevention measures.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires all hospitals to report the vaccination rates among their employees. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has established a minimum overall goal that 90% of healthcare workers be immunized.

Medicare makes public the vaccination rates of all hospitals in the US. The website currently reports that 83% of UMass Memorial employees have been vaccinated, slightly lower than the national average (84%) and state average (88%).

The Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccination for most individuals over six months of age, especially those who work in healthcare. This short video featuring UMass Memorial physician Dr. Fozia Qamar addresses some of the most common questions about the vaccine.