News & Events

Flu vaccination: an occupational health and patient safety issue

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
January 2009 Edition

By Donna Lazorik
MS, APRN, BC with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Influenza is not the common cold. Every year in Massachusetts, influenza causes an estimated 2,600 hospitalizations and 800 deaths. While we have safe and effective vaccines to protect us from influenza, these vaccines are less effective in people who are most at risk for complications from influenza, including the very young, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions. These vulnerable patients—even when they are vaccinated—rely on their health care providers to not expose them to influenza.

Did you know that:

  • As a health care worker, you are more likely than the general public to become infected with influenza because of your exposure to ill people.
  • If you become infected, you can be infectious for 24 hours before you develop symptoms, infecting people around you even before you know you are sick.
  • Documented transmission of influenza from unvaccinated health care workers has occurred in organ transplant units, long-term care facilities and neonatal intensive care units, resulting in patient deaths, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Our patients rightfully expect that that their health care providers will do whatever is necessary to prevent nosocomial infections, from handwashing to taking advantage of vaccines when they are available. As health care providers, we have a responsibility to base our decisions on scientific evidence, and the body of scientific evidence supports influenza vaccination of health care workers as both an occupational health and patient safety issue.For more information visit,, or call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6800. Become informed. Protect yourself, your family and your patients. Get vaccinated.

Flu vaccine: you can decline, no documentation necessary
As outlined in last month’s newsletter, the MNA has made it clear to its members that, in acute care hospital settings, nurses are not required to sign any form and/or document regarding their decision to decline a flu vaccination. In addition, nurses are not required to give any rationale, either verbally or in writing, regarding their decision to decline. At this time, the only exception is at long-term care facilities.

While legislation was initiated last year requiring health workers to be vaccinated, the legislation was not passed.

The MNA also confirmed with The Joint Commission that signed declination forms for refusal and/or requiring a rationale for refusal are not a condition or standard for hospital accreditation.

For more information, contact the MNA’s Division Health and Safety at 781.821.4625.