The CDC is urging people to get an early start on influenza prevention.
Most healthcare professionals are aware of the impact the influenza season can have, yet long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) workers are among the least likely to get vaccinated in the healthcare sector, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Those age 65 and older are among the most vulnerable to influenza, representing between 54% and 70% of flu-related hospitalizations annually. Nearly 85% of those who die from flu-related complications are age 65 or older, according to the CDC. The 2016–2017 flu season was one of the worse in recent history, killing nearly 80,000 and hospitalizing more than 900,000 people in the United States.
Many providers have begun their immunization programs in the past 30 days, hoping to get a head start on the coming flu season. The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated before the end of October when flu activity usually begins to ramp up, but vaccinations throughout November and December are common. Flu-related illness rates among employees increase absences, impact shift scheduling and put frail patients at risk.
Now is the time to coordinate awareness programs and campaigns to encourage employees to be vaccinated, both for their own health and the safety of the patients they serve.
Here are some tips to encourage your employees to get vaccinated early in the flu season:
Make it easy
Sponsor a flu shot clinic or offer a discount for those who get immunized early. Vaccination rates were highest when employers required it or offered the vaccine at the workplace. “Implementing workplace strategies shown to improve vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel, including vaccination requirements and active promotion of on-site vaccinations at no cost, can help ensure health care personnel and patients are protected against influenza,” the CDC notes.
The flu season peaks in December–February, but it can begin as early as October, the CDC says. Education campaigns need to hit hard and fast by the end of September, which is when flu vaccines reach general availability. The LTPAC vaccination rates have historically been so poor that the CDC developed an educational toolkit specifically for the sector, offering free materials and strategies.
If your organization doesn’t already require vaccinations, consider offering an incentive program to reward employees for getting the vaccine by a certain date, getting a coworker to get immunized or assisting with the awareness campaign.
Include the nonclinical staff
In nursing homes, assisted living and other LTPAC settings, it’s not just the nurses and aides that interact with patients. Encourage everyone who works in the building to get vaccinated, including the administrative office staff and housekeeping.