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Medical Center Achieves Near 100 Percent Staff Immunization Rate

SEATTLE, Wash. – Dec. 29, 2005 – Virginia Mason Medical Center (VM) set a new medical center patient safety standard by implementing a goal of 100 percent staff influenza immunization in 2005. Currently, 96 percent of the medical center staff is immunized. This is more than double the national health care worker immunization rate of 36 percent.

“At Virginia Mason, patient safety is our highest priority. That’s why the medical center requires staff members to receive an influenza immunization. As the medical center with the highest percentage of older patients in the region, providing the safest possible care is our moral imperative and fundamental to our mission. We know a simple influenza immunization could save a life,” said Patti Crome, Senior Vice President at Virginia Mason.

Virginia Mason provided a variety of means for staff to learn about the influenza vaccination goal and to meet this requirement. Program steps have included free staff immunization, education about the immunization, an awareness campaign called “Save lives – immunize,” on-site inoculations and opportunities to request accommodations for special circumstances.

“Our goal is to keep patients safe. Every staff member is important to this organization and their support is critical to this effort. We are doing everything possible to help them get immunized. A new requirement and change can be challenging. When faced with an opportunity to prevent an avoidable death, the path becomes clear,” said Gary S. Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO.

Many authorities* on disease and infection control have strongly recommended influenza immunization for health care workers based on safety and ethical responsibility. The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) 2005 Recommendations emphasizes that, “All health care workers should be vaccinated against influenza annually, and that facilities that employ health care workers be strongly encouraged to provide vaccine to workers by using approaches that maximize immunization rates. This will protect health care workers, their patients and communities, and will improve prevention of influenza-associated disease, patient safety, and will reduce disease burden.” (*A complete list of organizations can be found in the American Medical Association’s "Call to Action" brochure.)

Virginia Mason’s influenza immunization plan takes into consideration several key facts:
  • Center for Disease Control data show that 36,000 people in the United States die from influenza each year.
  • Five to 20 percent of the population gets the flu each year.
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications. Some of these will be high-risk patients under care at VM.
  • Some 50 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms but are contagious.
The medical center also encourages all visitors and patients to observe standard infection control precautions that include washing hands, covering coughs and wearing a mask if you are not immunized against influenza. If visitors have an illness that may be contagious, we ask that they refrain from visiting hospital patients. Each entrance has a wellness kiosk that provides antibacterial gel and materials to protect against infection transmission.

“Ultimately, Virginia Mason’s plan is in the best interest for our patients and honors the trust they place in us,” said Crome.

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