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University of Iowa News Release

 

Sept. 2, 2009

UI Health Care implements mandatory influenza vaccination program

University of Iowa Health Care faculty, staff and health sciences students will receive vaccinations this fall under a new mandatory immunization program to help reduce the spread of seasonal influenza.

The new program will require all faculty, staff, medical residents, fellows, volunteers, student employees and health sciences students who are working or learning in UI Health Care settings to get a flu vaccine. The program covers all employees of both University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. The flu vaccine availability will begin Sept. 25 and continue through Oct. 16.

"As a leading health care provider in the state and region, we have a responsibility to protect our patients and visitors, and our own employees, from seasonal influenza," said Dan Fick, M.D., associate chief medical officer for UI Physicians and campus health officer for the UI. "A flu vaccination is safe and effective, so its widespread use makes sense not only from a public health standpoint, but also in terms of being able to continue serving our patients without significant staff reductions due to illness."

UI Health Care staff members who are allergic to the flu vaccine or have medical or religious reasons not to receive a flu vaccine may be exempted from the program. Exempted staff members who provide direct patient care or have patient contact, however, will be required to wear a mask when in the presence of patients or other staff members during a community outbreak of influenza. Staff members who receive a flu vaccine from another health care provider or local pharmacy will need to bring documented proof of immunization.

UI health sciences students should receive their flu vaccinations through the university's Student Health Service. Health sciences colleges may pay for flu vaccine for students in some cases.

Flu vaccine will be available to all UI students through Student Health. Availability of flu vaccine and flu vaccine clinic dates/hours will be posted on the Student Health Web site at http://studenthealth.uiowa.edu/.

The seasonal influenza immunization program was developed by a task force comprising physicians, nurses and administrators and approved by UI Health Care leaders and its hospital advisory committee.

The program does not protect staff members from novel H1N1 influenza. Researchers across the nation -- including investigators at the UI -- currently are testing vaccines for novel H1N1 influenza. Decisions and details regarding immunization against novel H1N1 influenza are expected in the coming weeks.

The mandatory flu vaccine program is just one component of a three-way approach to preventing the spread of seasonal influenza, Fick noted. UI Health Care employees are encouraged to wash their hands regularly and follow other proper hand-hygiene steps, and to stay home if they are sick -- with a fever and/or the presence of other flu symptoms such as a cough and sore throat -- to help prevent the spread of influenza.

More than 200,000 people are hospitalized, and approximately 36,000 people die, in the United States each year from seasonal flu-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu