COMMENTARY

Mandating Influenza Vaccine: One Hospital’s Experience

Paul A. Offit, MD

Disclosures

September 13, 2010

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Hi; my name is Paul Offit, and I'm talking to you today from the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. What I'd like to talk about is our experience last year with influenza vaccine, because we took an unusual step. We actually mandated the vaccine, not only for healthcare workers, but for all employees, and the deal was that if you didn't want to get the vaccine, you had 2 weeks of unpaid leave to think about it. If you still didn't want to get the vaccine, then you were asked to step down from your position.

Of the more than 9000 employees in our hospital, only a few chose to lose their jobs over this request. We did it for the obvious reasons. Certain facts about influenza are clear. Every year, some children with influenza virus come into our hospital, and every year some children come into our hospital who don't have influenza, but who catch it from either a healthcare provider or other employee in our hospital. Hospitals that have higher rates of immunization have lower rates of nosocomial infection, and we wanted to be 1 of those hospitals.

A couple of years ago, a child who had cancer came into our hospital who didn't have influenza. She caught influenza while here and then died from that disease. This is not unusual. Every year, children come into our hospital who are less than 6 months of age and can't be vaccinated because they're too young, or there are children who are on chemotherapy for their cancers or immunosuppressant therapies for their rheumatologic diseases or transplants and they can't be vaccinated. They depend on those around them to be vaccinated, and that's what we feel is our responsibility. It's our responsibility to watch out for these children.

We took this unusual step. In general, I think that both the healthcare personnel and other personnel in our hospital understood what we were trying to do, and therefore 99.9% of them went along with our effort.

Thanks for your attention. If you want more information about vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases or the safety of vaccines, please check our Website at the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Thank you.

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