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Groups Push for Healthcare Workers to Get H1N1 Vaccination

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2010

In recognition of National Influenza Vaccination Week this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) have both offered support and resources to healthcare workers and the general public.

"This is a challenging flu season for millions of Americans and their families, and it's not over yet," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "The H1N1 vaccine is safe, effective and the best way to prevent the flu. We urge all Americans to protect themselves and their families by getting the H1N1 flu vaccine."

Although the week is not aimed specifically at H1N1 flu vaccination, both groups are using the week as a reminder that H1N1 flu vaccinations are available in most areas now for the entire population, not just specific sectors.

"Given the unpredictable nature of the flu and the wide availability of the vaccines, we need to act now and encourage as many Americans as possible to get immunized," said Christine J Nutty, RN, MSN, CIC, president of APIC. "While we do not know whether there will be a future wave of the H1N1 flu, we do know that the more people who are vaccinated, the less likely it is that infection will spread."

Earlier this year, APIC, along with several other healthcare groups, signed an "Open Letter to the American People" encouraging H1N1 vaccination. HHS has said that H1N1 flu infected approximately 47 million Americans between April and mid-November 2009, and contributed to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and nearly 10,000 deaths.

HHS is hosting a series of events this week, mostly focusing on the importance of specific groups of the population to get vaccinated, such as seniors, people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, children, infants, and young adults.

APIC specifically has targeted healthcare workers, maintaining that it is imperative for them to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.

"Employees who are not vaccinated can transmit influenza to vulnerable patients in healthcare facilities," said Nutty. "All healthcare workers need to be immunized against seasonal influenza and the H1N1 virus. This is vitally important to healthcare worker and patient safety."

National Influenza Vaccination Week was started as an annual event in 2006. For more information about it, visit www.flu.gov.


Heather Comak is a Managing Editor at HCPro, Inc., where she is the editor of the monthly publication Briefings on Patient Safety, as well as patient safety-related books and audio conferences. She is also is the Assistant Director of the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals. Contact Heather by e-mailing hcomak@hcpro.com.

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