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SEATTLE - (Oct. 1, 2009) — Virginia Mason Medical Center announced today it will require all staff, including physicians, nurses, other clinicians and non-direct, patient-care staff, to receive the H1N1 vaccine, in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine, by Nov. 30 as a fitness-for-duty requirement. There is no change to Virginia Mason's flu policy for union represented nurses. Represented nurses who do not get the H1N1 vaccine or the seasonal flu vaccine are required to wear a mask during the flu season.

Virginia Mason was the first hospital in the country to require staff immunizations for seasonal influenza. That policy was established in 2004, but due to a vaccine shortage was not fully implemented until 2005. Now in its fifth year of requiring flu vaccinations, VM consistently achieves a 99 percent vaccination rate among all staff. A small number of accommodations are made for medical and religious reasons; however, all non-immunized staff follow VM's infection control policy that includes wearing a face mask at all times while at work during the flu season.

"The safety of our patients and visitors is our top priority," said Joyce Lammert, MD, chief of medicine at Virginia Mason. "We are proud that Virginia Mason remains a national leader in requiring all staff to become immunized, as we know it is the best way to protect our patients and visitors from a potentially deadly virus."

"We've investigated the safety of the vaccine thoroughly and believe it is safe to administer," said Cathie Furman, RN, senior vice president of quality and compliance at Virginia Mason. "The H1N1 vaccine has also undergone the same rigorous manufacturing process and standards as the seasonal influenza vaccine."

Furman explained that normally the H1N1 strain would have been included in the seasonal influenza vaccine, but it was identified too late this year to be part of that process. It is anticipated that it will be included next year in the seasonal flu vaccine.

VM will follow Public Health - Seattle & King County direction for prioritizing populations to receive the vaccine. Federal officials anticipate having enough supply for all individuals who wish to have the vaccine. As the vaccine becomes available, VM staff with direct patient care will be immunized first, followed by all remaining staff. Patients can get more information about the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines at VirginiaMason.org/flu.

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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