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SEATTLE - (Jan. 7, 2010) — Virginia Mason Medical Center is pleased to announce it has achieved a 99 percent staff influenza immunization rate for both seasonal and H1N1 influenza, far exceeding the national health care worker rate of about 40 percent for seasonal influenza. The one percent of staff who is not immunized follows the organization's infection control policy and wears a mask during the flu season.

In 2005, Virginia Mason became the first medical institution in the nation to require all staff receive an influenza immunization. This year, the influenza vaccination policy included the H1N1 vaccine in the fitness-for-duty requirement.

"Keeping patients safe is our top priority at Virginia Mason. Immunization is highly effective in preventing the flu, and requiring all staff members to be immunized goes a long way in keeping our patients safe," says Cathie Furman, RN, senior vice president of quality and compliance at Virginia Mason. "This marked our fifth year immunizing all staff members from the flu, and we're proud to lead the country in this work."

"We've had some significant challenges this year with vaccine supply and logistics for the H1N1 vaccinations, but once the vaccine became widely available to the public, we were able to move quickly to vaccinate staff as we enter the worst of flu season," said Joyce Lammert, MD, chief of medicine. "We also saw dozens of health care organizations across the country follow our lead this year and adopt similar practices to require staff immunizations. Patients around the country will be safer because of pioneering organizations willing to make this a priority."

Leading authorities, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have long recommended influenza immunization for health care workers based on safety and ethical responsibility. This year the National Quality Forum, a voluntary consensus health care standard organization, recommended that all health care workers receive influenza immunizations to reduce the risk of harm to patients.

Virginia Mason's influenza immunization plan takes into consideration several key facts:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that 36,000 people in the United States die from the flu 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 50 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms, but they are still contagious.

About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a non-profit comprehensive regional health-care system in Seattle that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 440 physicians with a 336-bed acute-care hospital. Virginia Mason operates a network of clinics throughout the Puget Sound area; manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and Chronic Care Management program for people living with HIV and AIDS; and operates Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, internationally recognized in autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason is known for applying manufacturing principles to health care to improve quality and patient safety.

For Media Inquiries, Contact:
Alisha Mark
(206) 341-1509

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