Overriding objections by the nation’s leading occupational health agency, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee recently recommended that hospitals and other health care facilities that cannot achieve a 90% annual flu vaccination rate for their employees should “strongly consider” mandating immunization.
Though it is left to individual facilities to define their policy parameters for exemptions (religious objections, etc.), NVAC rejected the strong objections expressed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA argued in part that the seasonal vaccine is not effective enough to mandate, citing a recent study that found only an overall efficacy of 59% for seasonal flu vaccination.
“OSHA believes that the [NVAC] report should specifically address the implication of the limitations of current influenza vaccine technology on HCP mandatory vaccination (e.g., that, in some cases, a worker could be fired for refusing the influenza vaccine that provides little protection),” the agency stated in comments submitted to the panel.
However, with the support of all the major infectious disease and infection control groups behind it, the NVAC voted 12-2 (1 abstention) to green light the recommendation and send it the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for final approval. HHS approval would raise several implications, but certainly it would give hospitals considering mandatory vaccination policies a top-level federal recommendation to proceed.