~ Leaders focus on the importance of health care workers getting vaccinated ~
As the start of the 2017-2018 flu season approaches, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) encourages all people in Virginia six months and older to receive their annual influenza vaccine. At a recent event in Richmond, state and local health leaders joined together to highlight the importance of the vaccine, especially for health care workers, and to receive a flu shot themselves.
“Preventive actions are a key part of Virginia’s Plan for Well-Being, and influenza, unlike many other respiratory illnesses, is vaccine-preventable for every person over six months of age,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “Getting an annual flu vaccination protects not only ourselves but also our family, neighbors, coworkers and, as healthcare workers, our patients. This is an important way of building healthy connected communities.”
Flu season, the period of highest influenza activity, normally begins in early October and ends in late May. Influenza vaccination should begin soon after vaccine becomes available. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even in January or later. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons influenza activity peaks in January or later.
At the event, members of the 2017 Virginia Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Advisory Group released their consensus statement urging healthcare workers to protect themselves and their patients and set an example for their community by getting their annual influenza vaccine.
“The 2017 Virginia HAI Advisory Group consensus statement on the annual vaccination of healthcare workers to prevent influenza is a tool that healthcare systems can use to show support for the vaccination of healthcare workers,” said Christopher S. Bailey, Senior Vice President, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “With this tool, actions by healthcare systems to promote and provide influenza vaccination will help prevent potentially serious outcomes of influenza in local communities.”
“As the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Virginia and Maryland, Health Quality Innovators (HQI) works with healthcare personnel as they improve health quality and protect patients from harm, including complications from the flu,” said Thelma Baker, MSHA, RHIA, CPHQ, Chief Operating Officer, Health Quality Innovators. “By receiving a flu vaccine every year, healthcare professionals can protect their patients from the dangerous – often deadly – complications of flu while maintaining their own health and preventing the spread of illness in their facilities.”
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response to vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated to keep up with changing flu viruses.
-Submitted by Robert Parker, Public Information Officer