Forty-seven Oklahoma hospitals and hospital specialty units have met a challenge from the Oklahoma Hospital Association to achieve a health care worker influenza vaccination rate of 96 percent or higher during the 2018-2019 flu season. Amond those on the list were SSM Health St. Anthony Shawnee.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Influenza places a substantial burden on the health of people in the United States each year. CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.”

“And the risk of complications from influenza is higher among the types of people who are admitted to our hospitals,” said LaWanna Halstead, vice president of quality and clinical initiatives, Oklahoma Hospital Association. “These hospitals have developed policies and processes that ensure their patients and employees are protected.”

Hospitalized patients are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of influenza because their immune systems are often compromised by the illness that caused their admission or by the treatments they are undergoing. Vaccination of health care personnel (HCPs) has been shown to prevent illness and death in patients and reduce influenza and absenteeism among HCPs. The CDC has recommended annual vaccination of HCPs since 1984.

Several key national professional organizations have endorsed mandatory policies for influenza vaccination as a condition of employment within health care facilities, including the American

Hospital Association. In 2011, the Oklahoma Hospital Association board of trustees developed a position statement urging mandatory influenza policies.