AAP calls for mandatory flu vax for healthcare workers

The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for mandatory flu vaccinations for all doctors, nurses and other medical staffers to eliminate an unnecessary health threat to patients. In its recommendation, the academy calls the requirement "ethically justified, necessary and long overdue to ensure patient safety."

"Health care associated influenza outbreaks are a common and serious public health problem that contribute significantly to patient morbidity and mortality and create a financial burden on health care systems," the AAP says in a statement. And "despite the efforts of many organizations to improve influenza immunization rates with the use of voluntary campaigns, influenza coverage among health care personnel remains unacceptably low," according to the policy statement, "Recommendation for Mandatory Influenza Immunization of All Health Care Personnel," to be published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

A recent CDC survey found that only 37 percent of healthcare workers received swine flu vaccine. "Nurses have the lowest rates of all, and they're the ones who have the most contact with patients," says Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's vaccine research group.

The academy is the latest health organization to back mandatory flu shots for health workers. Other groups include the National Patient Safety Foundation, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists, USA Today notes.

The recommendation comes with an early start to flu vaccination season. A total of 160 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine is being produced--roughly 40 percent more than last year, the Seattle Times reports. In February, vaccine experts voted that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year starting with the 2010-2011 influenza season.* "We in public health think that vaccination can benefit everybody. We've been moving in that direction for several years," says CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.

In July, MedImmune announced it had begun shipping FluMist to influenza vaccine distributors who service healthcare providers throughout the U.S.

- see the AAP release
- get more from USA Today
check out the Seattle Times' report

* Editor's Note: Sentence changed to reflect the vaccine experts' February decision.  FluMist info also was added.