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Flu vaccine participation rate reaches 98 percent

Mar. 14, 2019, 9:32 AM


by Wayne Wood

Ninety-eight percent of Vanderbilt University Medical Center employees have received a flu vaccine in each of the past three years, according to data collected by the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic, which oversees the employee flu vaccine program.

In contrast, the vaccination rate for the 2006-2007 flu season was 54 percent. Officials say the most likely factors that have resulted in so many more employees receiving the vaccine in recent years are the beginning of Flulapalooza in 2011 and the decision to require all employees to be vaccinated or seek an exemption, which began with the 2014-15 flu season.

“Getting the flu shot is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves, colleagues, patients and family members from getting the flu,” said Lori Rolando, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Clinical Medicine and director of Occupational Health.

(photo by Anne Rayner)

The 98 percent rate for VUMC employees far exceeds the U.S. rate, which hovers around 40 percent, and even exceeds the ambitious goal for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Healthy People 2020 goal of 70 percent.

Rolando said that efforts by Occupational Health to make the vaccine easily available at the Medical Center also contributed to the high rate.

“Making it accessible is important,” she said. “We have multiple ways for people to get vaccinated — we’re available late night, we’ll come to you, and peers can vaccinate peers.”

She also noted the way that the annual Flulapalooza event has become a Vanderbilt tradition. It began in 2011 as a mass vaccination drill and an effort to make the Guinness Book of World Records for most vaccines given in eight hours. Not only was that successful — the record was broken — Flulapalooza, in Rolando’s words, “turned getting shots into a party.

“I think Flulapalooza has been a great thing because it brings the Vanderbilt community together,” Rolando said.

“Without the support from all involved VUMC stakeholders and help from numerous volunteers, Flulapalooza wouldn’t be so successful. It truly is a team effort,” said Catherine Qian, ANP-C, the Occupational Health Clinic’s manager.

Daniel Byrne, MS, senior associate in Biostatistics and director of Quality Improvement and Program Evaluation, who helped compile and analyze the statistics on vaccination rates, noted that the Medical Center’s leadership in vaccines is part of its mission.

“Vanderbilt’s position is to be a leader in evidence-based medicine, and this is evidence of that,” he said.

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