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Mandatory flu vaccine for healthcare workers receives support

November 18, 2015

Healthcare workers are on the front line when it comes to the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases. While typically this involves following proper processes, such as ensuring sharps safety, some organisations are calling for mandatory vaccinations to ensure that staff themselves do not carry - and potentially inadvertently spread - infections.

Now, the National Patient Safety Foundation has reissued its 2009 statement in support of mandatory influenza vaccinations for healthcare workers. In its statement, it stresses that that such inoculations not only safeguard the health of workers themselves, but also patients and the wider community.

"Everyone is susceptible to flu infection, including those who are otherwise healthy. Furthermore, those who are infected can spread the disease a full day before they themselves show symptoms. While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary from year to year, vaccination reduces the risk of more serious flu outcomes and may make the illness milder in those who were vaccinated but still get sick," the organisation explains.

It adds that alternative preventative measures need to be taken when it is not possible to vaccinate, such as if it would cause medical contradictions. These could include the use of masks, and even a change in professional responsibilities.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2014-15 flu season saw a higher uptake of vaccinations among medical staff who were required by their employer to vaccinate. Across healthcare organisations, hospital staff were the most likely to be inoculated against flu (90.4 per cent), while long-term care were the least (63.9 per cent).

Earlier this year, researchers found that it may be possible to protect against flu without the need for a vaccination - something that could make workplace health and indeed wider prevention of the spread of the virus easier. 

Based at Ohio State University, the team discovered a way to trigger a preventative response to the virus without actually having to use a strain of influenza or interferon. The process could help reduce the severity of illness should infection occur and, as mentioned, could actually prevent the virus from taking hold in the first place.

However, such a development is several years away from being at a suitable stage for human use; until then, healthcare professionals will need to rely on vaccinations and preventative processes to help control the spread of flu among patients and communities.

While anyone is susceptible to flu, the over-65s, adults and children with heart or respiratory conditions such as asthma, and people with weakened immune systems are all in particular need of preventative vaccinations.

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