September 18, 2014

Flu vaccine requirements vary

There’s some variability on requiring healthcare workers in Wisconsin to get the flu shot. Appleton Medical Center oncology supervisor Michelle VandenBoogard says ThedaCare doesn’t require flu shots but they take other precautions. “We are having weekly assessments of influenza activity in the region and in the state,” she said. “When we do see a spike in activity, we will be communicating to our employees that they would need to mask if they have not been vaccinated for any reason.”

Dr. Nasia Safdar is head of infection control for UW Hospital and Clinics, which now requires employees to get the shot. “To start with it was a soft requirement that you could get the requirement if it was easy for you, and easy for people to get,” she said. “That’s always important, you don’t want to make ot harder for healthcare workers to do the right thing.” Safdar said compliance plateaued at 85 percent last year, they hop to increase that to 95 percent with the requirement.

ThedaCare vice president Scott Decker said they require employees that don’t get a shot to wear a mask during flu season. Decker understands why some organizations require flu shots. “It probably is for the protection of the patient. But there’s a financial tie to performance. Insurance companies, whether that be Medicare, Medicaid, are aligning your rate of vaccination to reimbursement

Safdar said it’s difficult to quantify the effectiveness of the vaccination requirement. “The difficulty is, there’s so many things that can factor into whether people in the hospital would get influenza or not, that it’s rather hard to tease out the individual impact of the vaccine.”

Still, the requirement seems to becoming common practice among healthcare providers in Wisconsin. “That’s probably the route that the majority will go, and that’s not to say that ThedaCare won’t” said Decker.

WHBY’s Rick Schuh contributed to this report