The annual influenza vaccine clinic sponsored by the Office of Research Services and the Clinical Center will kick off on Monday, Sept. 19 with some changes from years past.
All NIH staff and contractors with a valid NIH identification badge will be provided the seasonal flu vaccine free of charge on the seventh floor of the CRC atrium area or at an off-site location.
Vaccinations will be given based on the first letter of employees’ last names. Dress in clothing that will let you quickly expose your upper arm; changing areas will not be available. There will be no vaccine clinics specifically for health care workers.
In 2008, the Clinical Center mandated that all staff who have patient contact—nurses and doctors but also clerks, housekeepers and others— must be vaccinated against influenza or complete a declination form. Immunization of health care workers has been proven to save patient lives, especially in immune-compromised patients.
In previous years, health care workers could decline the vaccine based on preference. Beginning this fall, these staff members must be vaccinated unless they present documentation of a medical contraindication from a non-NIH physician.
An allergy to raw egg, previous allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or its components or a history of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome excuse health care workers from immunization. Staff must provide a written statement of religious exemption if applicable. Patient care staff may be vaccinated off-site, but must produce documentation from the site of immunization to satisfy the mandate.
“The decision to get the flu vaccine has many downstream impacts. It not only protects you from flu, it protects your patients, your families and your coworkers,” said Dr. Tara Palmore, CC deputy hospital epidemiologist. “If you think of it as an opportunity to save someone’s life or prevent them from a very serious illness, then it’s really hard to think of anything other than a serious risk that would outweigh that.”
Palmore wants to set the record straight on the influenza vaccine. People cannot get flu from the vaccine that NIH administers because the shot is an inactivated virus, she said. FluMist, a nasal spray immunizer, does contain a live virus, which is why NIH does not purchase it. Health care workers should not get FluMist off-site because they cannot have patient contact for 7 days due to risk of transmission.
Immunity of the influenza vaccine lasts 6 to 8 months, so it is important to get vaccinated every year, said Palmore. She also encourages frequent hand-washing and staying home from work if you do fall ill, especially with a cough.
Health care workers should be vaccinated before Oct. 15. Qualifying employees and contractors will be notified by email that they fall under the mandate. If you believe you qualify as patient care staff but do not receive an email, check with your supervisor or contact the CC Hospital Epidemiology Service. For more information, visit http://foiltheflu.nih.gov.