First Do No Harm, A Collective Call To Action: The Value Of Flu Immunizations For Healthcare Staff

Alex Hartlage: Photo by Andrew Collings. Five years ago, I made the decision to enter medical school to become a physician and healthcare advocate. Implicit in this decision was the understanding that I would take the necessary actions needed to protect and improve the health of those under my care and within my community. One of these actions is annual influenza vaccination. Every year, thousands of individuals die or require hospitalization due to complications from influenza infection. In many of these cases, patients contract the disease through direct contact with an infected healthcare provider or hospital employee while receiving treatment for an unrelated illness. This disheartening reality has prompted numerous professional organizations, including the American College of Physicians and the Veteran’s Health Administration, to endorse annual influenza vaccination as a mandatory requirement for all healthcare personnel. The rationale for such a policy is straightforward. Due to their daily interactions with ill patients, healthcare personnel are at a heightened risk for acquiring influenza, which can then be passed to coworkers or patients receiving their care. Vaccination is one of the most effective safeguards against the contraction and spread of influenza, but many patients are ineligible for this basic intervention because they are either too young or do not possess a functional immune system owing to the nature of their disease or treatment. Thus, the only protection available for these susceptible individuals is that they do not come into contact with an infected individual carrying the potentially lethal virus. […]