Once again, the flu vaccine will be available to NIH employees. The vaccine is free of charge, available at work and will be offered starting in October. Look for the upcoming schedule and locations at the Foil the Flu web site (http://foiltheflu.nih.gov). You must have an employee badge to be vaccinated.
Last year, NIH modified the flu vaccine requirements, making it mandatory for all employees who have contact with Clinical Center patients. The medical executive committee approved this new requirement in February 2008. Those who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated by the Occupational Medical Service will be required to sign a declination form explaining their reason(s) for declining vaccination.
Despite solid evidence that vaccinating health care workers protects patients from influenza, the health care workforce has a surprisingly low rate of influenza vaccination. An emerging consensus among public health experts has led the Infectious Diseases Society of America and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America to call for universal vaccination of health care workers. In a concerted effort to promote patient safety and reduce the risk of hospital-based transmission of influenza, the CC has adopted this strategy. Health care workers with medical contraindications or religious or philosophical objections to vaccination will submit declination forms.
The influenza vaccine for the 2009-2010 season contains the following strains recommended by the FDA’s vaccines and related biological products advisory committee: A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like, A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus. This vaccine will not prevent against the novel H1N1 agent that was introduced from Mexico this past spring, but will prevent infection with the other seasonal strains that have been circulating. An additional vaccine is in production that will prevent infection with the novel H1N1 agent. The novel H1N1 vaccine should become available later in the fall. As infection with influenza can be life-threatening for many of our patients, immunization with both vaccines will be required for all individuals who have contact with our patients.
This year NIH may be able to offer vaccine to contractors who have contact with patients. Additional information about this new program will be available within the next month.
If you have questions about the influenza vaccine, call the CC Hospital Epidemiology Service at (301) 496-2209.