Mandatory Flu Policy FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we requiring the flu vaccine?
The safety and well-being of our patients are at the heart of All Children’s mission. Each year, approximately 36,000 people die and 226,000 are hospitalized due to the flu. These are preventable deaths. Requiring an annual flu vaccine demonstrates our commitment to protect the safety and health of our patients, many of whom already have weakened immune systems, as well as visitors, co-workers and our families.

Overall, voluntary programs have not been effective at significantly increasing vaccination rates. Making the flu vaccine mandatory is a step that has already been taken by many of the healthcare systems in Florida and in many hospitals throughout the nation.

Preventing transmission of flu is especially important at children’s hospitals, where many patients are too young to be immunized.  It is a high priority at All Children’s Hospital, where more than half of our patients can’t be immunized because of they are too young or their immune systems are too fragile.

Who does this policy apply to?
This policy applies to all personnel at All Children’s Hospital: employees, medical staff and allied health professionals, resident physicians and fellows, students, trainees, volunteers, vendors and temporary workers. It applies to personnel in the hospital, all of the other buildings on our main campus, and the regional All Children’s Outpatient Care centers.

How effective are flu vaccines, especially since virus strains keep changing?
The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu. The vaccine is up to 90% effective in preventing influenza in healthy adults. Public health officials have a good track record of predicting the three main flu strains that will cause the most illness during each flu season. These strains usually change each year which is why the vaccine is given annually. Even if you get the flu from a strain of the virus that wasn’t included in the vaccine, having the vaccine can make your illness milder.  That means you will feel less sick, miss fewer days of work, and be at lower risk for possible complications of the flu.

Why can't the policy just continue to be voluntary?
Our highest priority must be to protect our patients, many of whom are exceptionally vulnerable to adverse outcomes from the flu. Research shows that flu vaccinations vastly increase mass immunity and help to protect fragile infants, patients with acute illness, and immune-suppressed patients.

Nationwide, research shows that influenza vaccination of health care personnel decreases patient mortality by 40-50%, reduces the risk of hospital-acquired infection by 43%, and cuts absenteeism by 20-30% while limiting the risk of bringing illness acquired at work home to family members.

Is it legal to mandate flu vaccination?
Yes. Fifteen states have legislation requiring that health care workers be immunized in certain circumstances. Florida law currently requires proof of immunity for other communicable diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella for acute healthcare workers. In fact, other health care systems in our area and state have already mandated flu vaccination.

A number of hospitals in Florida now require flu immunization, including Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Tampa General Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center.

Why can't we stick with what we’ve done before: good hand hygiene and wearing masks?
Our personnel have frequent contact with high-risk patients in many settings, including the elevators and cafeteria. They can spread the flu virus even before they experience symptoms. When employees come down with flu they must stay home from work, this puts additional stress on the staff of busy units and offices and exposes coworkers and families to the flu.

All Children’s goal is to protect patients, employees and their coworkers and families from potential exposure to the flu. Immunization is the most effective way to accomplish this goal.

Why can’t I just wear a mask?
All Children’s goal is to protect patients, employees and their families, and coworkers from potential exposure to the flu. Immunization is the most effective strategy to accomplish this goal.

I’m not involved in direct patient care. Why should I be vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for all persons over the age of six months, especially health care workers. Everyone, including laboratory, clerical, dietary, environmental services, maintenance, security and administrative personnel, might be exposed to the flu virus even though they are not directly involved in patient care and could transmit the virus to others.

I’m very healthy and never get the flu. Why should I get the flu vaccine?
Working in a health care environment increases your risk of exposure. You may become infected and experience only mild symptoms but still pass the virus to patients, co-workers and members of your family.

I’m very familiar with the symptoms of the flu, and I stay home when I am sick. So, there is very little chance that I would infect my co-workers or patients. Why should I get the vaccine?
The signs and symptoms of the flu may not appear for a day or two after you contract influenza, during which time you could unknowingly infect patients and co-workers.

Can’t I just take antiviral drugs if I get the flu?
It is best to prevent the flu in the first place.  You can always seek treatment for the flu, but in the meantime you may have already passed on the virus to patients and co-workers because an infected person begins to spread the virus up to 2-3 days before they experience symptoms. Also, resistance to antiviral drugs can develop in circulating virus strains, similar to the way that bacteria develop resistance to many antibiotics.  This may make the drugs less effective for people who need them the most—those at high risk for severe complications.  

What counts as proof of immunization?
There are several types of documentation we will accept:  a signed statement from the healthcare provider written on a prescription pad; your receipt form for receiving the vaccine if  signed by the provider, or a similar document.  You must provide this to Employee Health Services (employees and volunteers), to the Medical Staff Office (non-employed physicians and credentialed allied health professionals), or as directed. This must be submitted by December 6, 2013.

If I get the seasonal flu vaccine in the fall, will I still be protected if the flu season continues into March or April?
Yes. Protection from the particular strains included in the vaccine will last for the entire season.

Will the seasonal flu vaccine protect me against the H1N1 flu as well?
Yes. The 2014-2015- flu vaccine will target the H1N1 flu strain and three other influenza strains that are expected to circulate this winter.

Is it true that that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine?
This is NOT TRUE. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed (as is the case with the shot) or weakened (as is the case with the nasal spray) so that they cannot cause the flu. Some people mistakenly confuse flu symptoms with potential vaccine side effects such as a minor fever.

What is the live attenuated vaccine and are there individuals who should not receive it?
The live attenuated vaccine is the flu vaccine that is administered as a nasal spray. This is a highly effective vaccine that is licensed for people up to the age of 49. This vaccine is not recommended for immune-suppressed patients, patients with chronic cardiovascular, pulmonary (for example, asthma), or metabolic diseases (for example, diabetes or renal insufficiency), and pregnant women. This vaccine is also not recommended for household members with close contact with severely immunocompromised persons (for example, acute leukemia patients).  ACH employees who work in Hem-Onc or PICU cannot be immunized with the nasal spray vaccine.

Will the flu vaccine make me feel ill?

Almost all people who receive the influenza vaccine have no side effects. Some people may experience minor side effects. If these occur, they begin soon after the shot was given and usually last no more than one to two days. The most common side effects are:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Low-grade fever and aches
  • Runny nose, sore throat, cough and headache (with nasal mist vaccine only)

Any employee who believes that they are experiencing side effects related to the vaccination is to Employee Health Services.

I am pregnant. Should I get the flu vaccine?
Yes. Pregnant women should receive the flu shot. It is especially important for pregnant women to get the flu shot as you are more likely to have serious complications to yourself and your pregnancy if you get the flu. Once you get the flu shot, your body will start producing antibodies that will help protect you against the flu, and this protection can be passed to your unborn baby. According to the CDC, you can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester, while you are pregnant.

Pregnant women should receive the injectable vaccine. The nasal spray is only for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

EXEMPTIONS  

What about an individual who has medical or religious reasons for declining vaccination?
An exemption to the vaccination policy may be requested for certain medical reasons, including documentation of severe allergy to the vaccine or components as defined by the most current recommendations of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm60e0818a1.htm?s_cid=mm60e0818a1_e&source=govdelivery) or a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome within six weeks of a receiving an influenza vaccine.

If receiving the vaccination conflicts with sincerely held religious beliefs, you may submit a request for religious accommodation.

What documentation do I need to provide to request a medical exception?
All Children’s Hospital personnel requesting a medical exception must submit a declination form and a request for medical exemption form to Employee Health Services by October 8, 2014. These forms can be found in the Influenza Vaccination policy on BeACH. The policy is also included in this webpage.

My religion requires me to decline vaccination.  What should I do?
If you are requesting to decline the vaccine for religious reasons, you must fill out the declination form and a request for religious accommodation and submit it to the Employee Ombudsman, Janet Winder, by October 8, 2014. These forms can be found in the Influenza Vaccination Policy posted on BeACH and in the Employee section of this web page.

If my declination for medical or religious reasons is approved, will I still be able to work?
Yes. Those who cannot receive the flu vaccine, whether for religious or medical reasons, will be required to properly wear a protective surgical mask over their mouth and nose within six feet of any patient and when entering a patient room during the influenza season (which will end when the ACH Vice President of Medical Affairs declares flu season is over). This important step to prevent flu transmission is supported by national patient safety and infectious disease prevention organizations.

Anyone who is granted a medical exemption or religious accommodation but who fails to wear a surgical mask within six feet of a patient during the influenza season will be subject to corrective action.

COMPLIANCE

What happens if I don’t want to get the vaccine?

Employees:  All Children’s Hospital employees covered by this policy who fail to comply and who have not received a medical exemption or religious accommodation will be placed on an unpaid administrative leave of 3 days. If, at the end of the administrative leave, the employee has not met the vaccination requirement, the employee will be considered to have voluntarily resigned.

Non-employed medical staff (including MDs, DOs, PAs and ARNPs):  Members of the medical staff who are not employed by All Children’s Hospital and who do not comply with the flu vaccine requirement by November 19, 2014 (the week prior to Thanksgiving) will have their staff privileges suspended until they provide proof of immunization or until the ACH Vice President of Medical Affairs declares flu season has ended. Medical staff members who wish to apply for a medical or religious exemption must submit a completed request form to the Medical Staff Office by October 8, 2014.  Forms are included in the ACH  Influenza Vaccine Policy included on this website.

Volunteers, vendors, trainees, students, residents or fellows, volunteers, vendors or temporary workers who do not provide proof of immunization by November 19, 2014 will not be permitted on the premises of the main hospital campus or any of the All Children’s Outpatient Care Centers.  Medical exemptions or religious workplace accommodations can only be granted to employees and medical staff of All Children’s Hospital.