Mandatory flu vaccine policies reduce sick days

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If you haven t yet gotten your flu shot, here s one more reason you may want to consider getting one. According to a new study conducted by researchers at the Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System in New York City, healthcare facilities requiring their workers to get the flu vaccine had lower flu-related sick day ratios. Flu-related sick day ratio was defined as number of symptomatic sick days (those due to respiratory, cold or flu-like symptoms), versus number of participants at each site.

Researchers collected data from about 1000 healthcare workers who were a part of the ResPECT study (Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial). There were seven healthcare systems included in the study; four Veterans Affairs health systems not requiring workers to get the flu vaccine and three private health systems with policies requiring workers to get the flu vaccine. Participants were observed over a 12-week period, and researchers concluded that mandatory vaccination programs did indeed reduce absences related to the flu. Respiratory virus exposure was also reduced among sites with mandatory flu vaccine policies.

Although there were several limitations of the study, including that it was observational and that data were self-reported, Dr. Robert Read of Southampton General Hospital in England and program chair for the Infectious Diseases Society of America says, Of course, during the early stages of infection, you won t be aware that you re brewing the virus, so while you re feeling perfectly well, you could be transmitting the virus to your patients. Obviously, it would be in the public interest if they knew that their healthcare workers were vaccinated.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross adds, It s about time that New York implements a mandatory flu vaccine policy for healthcare workers. Although requiring workers to either get vaccinated or wear a mask is a step in the right direction, masks are not effective in preventing transmission of the flu. And they certainly won t stop workers from getting the flu either and having to take days off from work.