Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
While federal agencies, hospitals, and unions are debating the issue of mandatory flu vaccinations for healthcare workers, some state legislatures and regulators are also tackling the issue.
On February 6, the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee reported favorably on Assembly Bill No. 2172, which would require healthcare facilities to provide flu vaccinations to healthcare workers, defined as employees who provide direct patient care or have patient contact. Health care facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and home health care agencies, would be required to establish and implement an annual influenza vaccination program in accordance with the current recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As part of the program outlined in the bill, covered facilities would be required to:
- Annually offer to provide an influenza vaccination to each of its health care workers
- Mandate that healthcare workers at the facility receive an influenza vaccination, unless they present proof of a current vaccination or sign a written declination
- Maintain a record of influenza vaccinations or declinations for each healthcare worker
- Report to the Department of Health and Senior Services the compliance rate of its healthcare workforce in receiving influenza vaccinations
- Provide an educational component to the program that is designed to inform health care workers about:
- influenza vaccination;
- non-vaccine influenza control measures; and
- the symptoms, transmission, and potential impact of influenza; and
- Annually conduct an evaluation of the program with the goal of improving the rate of vaccination among its health care workers
If the bill is approved by the legislature, healthcare facilities will need to carefully design their implementation programs.
Colorado is also taking steps to increase flu vaccination rates among healthcare employees. On February 15, the Colorado Board of Health passed a rule requiring licensed health care facilities to annually submit data regarding their employee vaccinations to the state Department of Public Health and Environment. Among other things, the rule provides that facilities that meet target vaccination rates for a particular year will be exempt from the rule the following year. The target rates for the exemption start at 60% for the fall/winter of 2012-2013 and reach a 90% vaccination rate by fall/winter 2014-2015.
Other states can be expected to follow these examples and adopt various laws and regulations to require healthcare employers and their employees to take measures to reduce the spread of influenza. We will continue to keep our readers posted as new developments occur.