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VM Strives for 100 percent Staff Immunization to Save Patient Lives SEATTLE, Wash. — September 22, 2004 — Virginia Mason Medical Center (VM) has identified the flu shot as an important patient safety initiative and announced the adoption of a staff flu shot policy, making the vaccination a fitness for duty requirement. The flu vaccination will be given free of charge to its entire staff, making it the first medical center in the nation to require a staff flu shot. The new policy draws upon accepted recommendations from recognized sources, such as The Centers for Disease Control and The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices* 2004-2005 recommendations which strongly recommend flu vaccinations for health care workers. This initiative sets a new medical center standard for staff to 100 percent immunization, versus the national average for medical staff immunization, which rests around 38 percent. “This new policy will save lives,” said Robert M. Rakita, MD, Section Head, Infectious Diseases for Virginia Mason Medical Center. “Patient safety is our top priority. As a medical center our first job is to take care of the health of our patients. This includes making sure that our health care providers and staff are not passing on potentially life-threatening diseases, like the flu, to our patients.” The flu is potentially fatal — 36,000 people in the U.S. die from the disease every year — particularly for those at highest risk such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases. The flu is preventable with current vaccines proving to be 70 to 90 percent effective. “Fifty percent of the people with the flu don’t have symptoms and may unknowingly transmit the flu to those at-risk” Rakita continued, “We are taking a proactive and preventive step forward to deliver the best care possible.” “We value the lives of our patients and staff and believe this plan will prevent unnecessary transmission of the flu. We want to protect those who are the most vulnerable to influenza, particularly during flu season,” said Gary S. Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Medical Center. “This new policy will engage staff, our patients and the public in new ways to provide the very best care.” “This is an exciting time for all of us at Virginia Mason and we are committed to advancing patient safety initiatives that can save lives,” said Kaplan. “It is widely known that the flu shot is an important safe guard for both patients and health care workers in the transmission of the flu. We predict that other medical centers will also adopt this policy.” The Centers for Disease Control lists recommendations about the flu vaccination. To find out more, visit their web site at: www.CDC.gov/flu . ###  *The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) consists of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization who have been selected by the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the most effective means to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases.
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