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Johns Hopkins flu expert calls for mandatory vaccination of health care workers

Johns Hopkins' senior hospital epidemiologist and flu expert is calling for mandatory vaccination of all health care workers as the best means of protecting patients and hospital staff from widespread outbreaks of the viral illness. Studies by other United States researchers show that voluntary vaccination programs don't do the job and that each year, nearly 40,000 Americans die from influenza, many of them elderly or ill, with weakened immune systems that cannot readily fend off the disease.

In an editorial to be published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology online Nov. 9, Trish Perl, M.D., M.Sc., concludes that mass vaccination policies are required to prevent patients from accidentally contracting the virus directly from an infected medical staff worker or indirectly from other patients or visitors via medical staff.

Previous research from Hopkins showed that annual flu shots have been almost 88 percent effective at reducing the risk of flu infection and that they reduced by one-half the number of deaths among hospital patients from the disease.

Perl's view, which is likely to inform further debate on the subject of voluntary versus mandatory worker vaccination programs, is based on research showing that despite free and ready access to the vaccine, only 40 percent of all health care workers actually get a flu shot.

"We have gone as far as possible with vaccination programs emphasizing education and health promotion," says Perl, an associate professor of medicine and pathology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "It's now time to go the extra step, requiring active declination or even making vaccination a mandatory part of the job, linked to patient safety, along with such tasks as keeping hands clean and getting mandatory TB tests."

Neither state nor federal law requires workers to provide medical details when they call in sick so it is difficult to precisely link seasonal hospita
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
9-Nov-2005


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