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Mandatory Flu Vaccines for Hospital Personnel Set to Take Effect

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The State Hospital Review and Planning Council (SHRPC) Thursday approved an emergency regulation to require influenza vaccinations for health care personnel. The mandate approved applies to all personnel working in hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, certified home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, acquired immune deficiency syndrome home care programs, licensed home care service agencies, and hospices. Nursing home employees are not covered under the regulation.

The only exemptions are for personnel who have a medical contraindication and for workers, such as those offsite, who would have no contact with patients and only incidental contact with direct-care staff. The language for the exemptions is available in the regulation.

The measure officially becomes effective upon filing with the Department of State in the coming days, and facilities should be prepared to offer the vaccines to their employees at no cost for the upcoming flu season.

The Department of Health (DOH) officials have said the regulation could apply to provision of the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine series, in addition to seasonal flu shots, should the H1N1 vaccine become available in sufficient supplies to cover all health care workers. Health care workers, along with school-age children, pregnant women, and immuno-compromised adults, are among the highest priorities for receiving novel H1N1 flu shots when they become available in September or October.

DOH is moving forward with the regulation over objections of the New York State Nurses Association, which spoke against the mandate at the SHRPC committee hearing, urging instead increased education to improve voluntary vaccination rates.

HANYS is seeking guidance from DOH on how facilities need to document instances where there are medical contraindications or other refusals to receive the vaccine. The regulation includes a mandate requiring facilities to report the status of their immunization efforts annually to DOH.

A separate measure that would require the immunizations for nursing home personnel was under consideration earlier this year in the State Legislature, because it requires a statutory change. Contact: Karen Roach

Published August 7, 2009