News & Events

MNA position on flu vaccine for members

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
October/November 2011 Edition

The MNA supports regulations by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health requiring health care employers to offer nurses and other health care workers flu vaccine, along with education about the vaccine’s benefits and risks. The MNA encourages nurses to educate themselves on the pros and cons of flu vaccination each year before making a choice whether to be vaccinated. The MNA encourages members to consider vaccination as a means of protecting themselves and their patients.

The MNA concurs with the following position on influenza vaccination recommended by the American College of Occupational Environmental Medicine, which represents 4,500 physicians and other health professionals specializing in the field of occupational and environmental medicine. It is the largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, research and education.

Comprehensive influenza prevention programs include: flu immunization, education and adherence to good infection control programs at the bedside. These constitute a three-legged stool upon which the health of health care workers and patients are balanced.

Employee immunization programs are the most successful when:

  • vaccine is provided free of charge and during weekend/night shifts
  • adequate staff and resources are allocated to the campaign
  • influenza education is provided at locations and times that are convenient to the worker
  • upper level management is supportive of the vaccination program
  • the program’s outcomes are reported to the organizational leadership

Current evidence regarding the benefit of influenza in health care workers as a tool to protect patients is inadequate to override the workers autonomy to refuse vaccination, and as such, the MNA/NNU opposes a mandatory vaccination policy.

Influenza-like illness (ILI) is the term used to describe illnesses associated with a number of organisms including influenza, noro virus, rhino virus, corona virus, etc. The Centers for Disease Control differentiontiates the annual influenza death rate of about 8,000, from the much larger total of 36,000 deaths from ILI, attributable primarily to pneumonia and circulatory complications.

In order to reduce the death rate from all ILI, hospitals need to implement control measures beyond just influenza vaccination such as hand washing, isolation, gloves, masks and gowns, sick leave policy, environmental controls, ventilation, housekeeping, equipment and visitor controls. A paramount concern is that hospitals provide adequate staffing so that nurses have flexibility and time to gown, glove, mask and hand wash sufficiently as they move between patients.

Influenza vaccine can be a valuable tool but is no more than an adjunct to other established infection control measures. MNA with the support of its Congress on Occupational Health and Safety and Emergency Preparedness Task Force has been actively working to educate its members about ILI and influenza issues affecting both nursing and patient safety. For more information check our flu page here.