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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
Short White Coat blogger Ishani Ganguli
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
More than half Boston hospital workers got flu shots
More Boston hospital workers may be getting flu shots this season than the national average, but beyond that itís hard to figure out how they measure up.
Public health officials have been pushing for virtually all hospital workers to get flu shots because they can easily be exposed and infect vulnerable patients. But each of six hospitals that answered a White Coat Notes query today counts health care workers involved in direct patient care in its own way. And they donít necessarily know who might have gotten a flu shot outside their hospitals' programs.
Here are the results:
Boston Medical Center: 71 percent
"The national average is 38 percent," said Dr. Robert Goldszer, associate chief medical officer at Brigham and Womenís. "We feel weíre doing better than average, but we know we donít have an accurate rate."
Beth Israel has a broad definition of who comes into direct contact with patients. Itís not just the people who have day-to-day hands-on contact, but it also includes people who see patients face-to-face, such as ward secretaries, people who sit at the front desk in clinics, and workers who clean floors in patientsí rooms, said Dr. Sharon Wright, director of the infection control and hospital epidemiology program.
Beth Israel tries to track who gets a flu shot elsewhere, she said, asking employees to use an internal web site to state explicitly why they are declining to get a flu shot.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations requires hospitals to at least offer flu shots. The Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends that hospitals and other health care facilities mandate flu shots for employees, except for religious or medical reasons.
"JCAHO told us to immunize 100 percent of health care workers who donít have a contraindication," Beth Israel's Wright said. "Weíre trying to get to that 100 percent in three to five years. The goal this year was 60 percent and we did it."
"Obviously we think everybody should get vaccinated against the flu, but itís especially important for health care workers," he said.