Health Impact News Editor Comments:
Last year we saw an increase in healthcare facilities requiring nurses and other healthcare workers to receive mandatory flu vaccinations as a requirement for employment. We learned that new mandates for mandatory flu vaccinations of healthcare workers was tied into new requirements for Obamacare . Failure to meet certain percentages of a healthcare facility’s employees as vaccinated for influenza jeopardized their federal reimbursement of Medicare and Medicaid funds.
As a result, many of our nation’s top nurses who are opposed to vaccinations lost their jobs, and many more face losing their jobs this year as well. Here are some of the stories we reported on last year:
Now, a recent meta-analysis study just published this month by the CDC reveals that flu vaccinations among healthcare workers offer no evidence of protection to the patients under their care! Predictably, the CDC still recommends flu shots for healthcare workers because “It’s the best intervention we currently have, so we need to keep using it while working toward a better flu vaccine.”
So in other words, mandatory flu vaccinations of healthcare workers will continue, in spite of the lack of evidence that they work to protect patients.
Here are some excerpts from the study as published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota :
Analysis finds limited evidence for HCW flu vaccination
Hospitals and public health officials strongly promote healthcare worker (HCW) flu vaccination as a step to protect patients, but a new analysis found that evidence for a benefit isn’t as strong as previously thought.
And influenza experts who commented on the analysis pointed out that, for specific outcomes such as lab-confirmed influenza, the data showed little evidence of protection for patients.
The meta-analysis, by researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appeared in an early online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. They focused on four randomized controlled trials and four observational studies from long-term facilities or hospitals. They pooled the results and assigned grades to the quality of the evidence.
An increasing number of health systems require staff to receive flu shots or else wear a mask during flu season, but the efforts have been met with pushback from some medical worker groups. Employee groups support flu vaccination and other measures to control the spread of flu, but many say workers should have the right to opt out for health, religious, or personal reasons.
In addition, the science behind flu vaccination mandates has been a topic of recent debate. In November 2012, an editorial in a Canadian medical journal calling for mandatory flu shots in HCWs prompted a quick response from researchers who questioned the evidence cited in the piece.
The new CDC analysis of HCW flu vaccination is part of an overall trend toward evidence-based public health recommendations and parallels recent new scrutiny on the efficacy of the flu vaccine itself.
In an editorial published alongside the study, Marie Griffin, MD, MPH, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine… pointed out that, after the researchers submitted their study, a Cochrane group updated its meta-analysis on the topic, using three of the same studies and focusing on more specific outcomes, such as lab-confirmed flu. The Cochrane analysis found no evidence to support compulsory vaccination of HCW, she wrote.
Nick Kelley, PhD, research associate for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), said that the new analysis provides a more robust look at HCW flu immunization studies than earlier reviews and includes observational studies that weren’t available at the time.
For outcomes that matter the most—lab-confirmed flu and flu hospitalizations—the two meta-analyses (the CDC’s and Cochrane’s) both find low or very low levels of evidence, he said. “We simply don’t have good evidence that vaccination of healthcare personnel prevents influenza transmission to patients,” Kelley said.
Read the Full Article Here: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2013/09/analysis-finds-limited-evidence-hcw-flu-vaccination 
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