Nearly all of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s health workers are required to get flu shots this season unless they have an exemption because of allergy or religious reasons, hospital officials announced earlier in 2010.
In the past, the vaccines have been encouraged, but voluntary.
In 2009, amid concerns about the spreading swine flu virus, hospitals kicked up their push for workers to get seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccinations.
At some hospitals across the country, including in North Carolina, the shots were made mandatory in the fall as health officials were still unsure how serious the H1N1 outbreak would be.
The mandates caused controversy in some areas like in New York where a union filed suit to block a statewide requirement that all health care workers get the vaccinations or face disciplinary action.
None of the Wilmington-area hospitals made the shots mandatory during last year’s unusual flu season but relied on more outreach.
Since 1989, flu vaccination among health care workers nationwide was never higher than 49 percent in a single season until last year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A CDC survey during this past flu season found that by mid-January, nearly 62 percent of health workers received the seasonal flu vaccine – though only 37 percent got a vaccine for H1N1, which was the dominant virus circulating. In comparison, about 40 percent of adults in the general population got the seasonal flu shot.
The national report showed hospital workers were more likely to receive the seasonal flu vaccine than those in other settings, like long-term care facilities.
About 11 percent of the health workers surveyed said they were required to get the vaccine by their employer.
Date posted: October 4, 2010
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