Children's Hospital Colorado

Study Finds Making Flu Vaccines Mandatory for Healthcare Workers Reduces Absenteeism and Increases Rates of Vaccination

Children's Hospital Colorado | March 08, 2018

A multi-institutional study, as reported in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, shows that mandatory flu vaccines for healthcare workers improve vaccination rates by as much as 30% and reduce absenteeism during critical periods by about 6%. Further, vaccinated healthcare workers had a 30% reduction in absenteeism compared to non-vaccinated healthcare workers overall. Children’s Colorado was one of the hospitals that mandated the flu vaccine during the trial.

Vaccination helps maintain optimum staffing levels

“By lowering absenteeism, mandatory influenza vaccination can help hospitals maintain optimum staffing levels especially during the busy respiratory illness season,” said Chris Nyquist, MD, MPH/MSPH,
medical director, Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s Colorado. “This benefits not only the individuals getting vaccinated but also the organization and, ultimately, the patients.”

Researchers for this study, titled Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial, carried out the study over three separate flu seasons at three healthcare systems that mandated influenza vaccination for their employees (Denver Health Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Health System in addition to Children’s Colorado) and at four Veterans Administration (VA) facilities that encouraged but did not mandate influenza vaccination for employees (VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System; Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center; Washington, DC VA Medical Center; and VA New York Harbor Healthcare System). Healthcare workers at all of the combined institutions were offered free, on-site vaccinations.

Study found lowered occurrences and duration of absenteeism

Researchers found that:

  • Influenza vaccination rates of healthcare personnel at the non-mandatory sites were consistently lower than those at the mandatory sites.
  • Vaccination rates fell at non-mandatory sites during the three years of the study.
  • Vaccinated healthcare workers had a 30% reduction in absenteeism compared to non-vaccinated healthcare workers.
  • Absenteeism among healthcare workers was about 6% lower at mandatory sites than non-mandatory sites, and the number of days absent also was lower.
  • Males, older workers and those at non-mandatory vaccination sites had longer durations of sick leave.

“Absenteeism among healthcare personnel can negatively affect a facility’s ability to care for patients during busy viral respiratory illness seasons,” said Dr. Nyquist. “Given that concern, minimizing absenteeism among healthcare personnel should be a priority when developing influenza vaccination policies.”

The study was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Veterans Health Administration and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The collaborative study involved researchers from nearly 20 institutions across the country in addition to Children’s Colorado including University of Colorado School of Medicine; Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System; University of Massachusetts; University of Florida; Johns Hopkins University; Medical Service in Washington, DC; VA Medical Center in Washington, DC; George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; VA St. Louis Health Care System; St. Louis University School of Medicine; UT Southwestern; Denver Health Medical Center; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory; Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston; Baylor College of Medicine; VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System; and New York University School of Medicine.