Healthcare News & Insights

Keys to boosting flu vaccine rates for healthcare workers

Flu season is officially in full swing, which means many hospital employees will need their annual flu shots. Although the vaccine keeps patients safe by helping stop the spread of the virus, it can be tough to convince every staff member to get one. 


While it’s most crucial for doctors, nurses and other clinical staff to be vaccinated against the flu, anyone who regularly works in a hospital can be exposed to infectious agents – or bring outside germs into a facility treating vulnerable patients.

Several facilities have instituted mandatory flu shot policies for hospital staff. However, this approach could bring legal scrutiny. So other hospitals have opted for a different strategy to boost flu vaccination rates among staff.

Christiana Care Health System in Delaware is one facility that’s had a great deal of success using an alternate approach to improving vaccination rates, according to an article from NBC News. Ninety-three percent of its workers are vaccinated.

Success story

It wasn’t always this way for Christiana Care. The hospital first started its flu vaccination program because its vaccination rates weren’t impressive, even compared with the industry average. Past rates varied between 57% and 75% a year.

Now, every fall the hospital makes a specific push to improve workers’ vaccination rates throughout flu season, which typically lasts from October through mid-winter.

A big piece of the hospital’s program: Flu vaccines aren’t required, but employees must specifically “opt-out” if they don’t want to receive one.

Those who receive their vaccinations are given an “I’m vaccinated” badge they can wear throughout the hospital. They also receive points toward their annual bonuses.

Anyone who isn’t vaccinated loses out on the bonus points. In addition, as a safety precaution, these staffers must always wear face masks when interacting with patients in the hospital.

The hospital also makes it easy for staff to get vaccinated. It sets up various “flu shot stations” throughout the building so doctors and nurses can conveniently get vaccinated as they’re going about their work.

What hospitals can do

Healthcare workers are more likely to get vaccinated against the flu if their employer either recommends or requires a vaccination.

Per CDC data, only about 43% of healthcare staff get the flu vaccine if their employer doesn’t have a specific policy either requiring or recommending the flu vaccine. The rates climb to over 68% if the employer recommends the vaccine and almost 86% if it’s required.

Using a strategy similar to Christiana Care’s may help hospitals that don’t want to force workers’ hands regarding the flu shot.

An opt-out policy gives workers the chance to decline the vaccine if they have a compelling reason to do so. And if you give everyone else easy access to the flu vaccine during their shifts, it’ll likely lead to higher vaccination rates.

According to the CDC, the two most common objections to receiving the flu shot are:

  • the vaccines aren’t effective, and
  • they don’t need the vaccine.

Distributing information that dispels these myths can go a long way toward improving vaccination rates among your hospital’s staff.

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