AHA's board of trustees approved a policy supporting mandatory patient safety policies that require either influenza vaccination or wearing a mask in patients' presence across health care settings during flu season.

Several organizations have endorsed mandatory policies for influenza vaccination as a condition of employment within health care facilities, including the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, American Academy of Pediatrics, Infectious Diseases Society of America, National Patient Safety Foundation and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Vaccination of health care workers has been shown to prevent illness and death in patients, and reduce influenza infections and absenteeism among workers. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended annual vaccination of health care workers since 1981, only about half of these workers are immunized annually. Further, a recent CDC survey found that only 64 percent of health care workers received the vaccine during the 2009-2010 season. However, at facilities where vaccination is mandatory, the rate is 98 percent. Facilities without a mandate can improve rates by providing on-site vaccination with a personal reminder, making it available at no cost, and offering it on more than one day.

According to AHA, the benefits of protecting patients and reducing employee illness and absenteeism outweigh the cost of resources needed to implement a mandatory policy.

For best practices for implementing vaccine policies and other resources, visit www.hpoe.org/Influenza/Influenza_Main.shtml.