October 20, 2006

Staff, faculty urged to take full advantage of flu vaccine program

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Illustration by Dominick Doyle, Medical Art Group

Staff, faculty urged to take full advantage of flu vaccine program

The staff at the Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) is hoping to scare up participation in the annual flu vaccine campaign with a Halloween kickoff called “Say Boo to the Flu” to urge staff and faculty to get the potentially life-saving immunization.

Vaccines are provided by Vanderbilt free of charge to all staff, faculty, volunteers and second- and third-year medical students. Nursing students and first- and second-year medical students also may get free vaccines, as can other students, at the Student Health Clinic.

Vaccines will be available beginning Oct. 31. at the Occupational Health Clinic, 640 Medical Arts Building. The Clinic hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year, in addition to smaller, departmental on-sites, OHC nurses will also be staffing larger events, including:

• Nov. 1, 2 and 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the second floor lobby off the skybridge of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt

• Nov. 6-10 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. under the “Flu Big Top,” a tent between VUH and Light Hall on the plaza

• Nov. 6 from 8 a.m. through 1 p.m. in rooms 2701 and 2702 of The Vanderbilt Clinic

• Nov. 15 from 6 to 10 p.m. the Occupational Health mobile cart will be rounding with flu vaccine at VUMC, targeting second-shift staff with an event called “Late Night with OHC.” This opportunity will also be available on Nov. 4, 10 and 19 for weekend staff.

Any eligible person can get a flu shot at any event. A Vanderbilt ID is required.

And while the flu shot is a good idea for everybody, health care workers are especially targeted for immunizations because sick care partners, physicians or nurses also put patients at risk.

“It's not just for you, it's for your patients,” said Melanie Swift, M.D., medical director of the Occupational Health Clinic. “You are contagious before you even know you're sick.”

“We want to encourage all health care workers to get the vaccine,” said Valerie Thayer, R.N., who heads up Vanderbilt's flu vaccine program. “The CDC, along with other national organizations, strongly recommends that health care workers get flu shots.”

Despite that push, nationally, only 36 percent of all health care workers get flu shots, Swift said. Vanderbilt's high point in participation was 54 percent, reached in 2003, a year of early availability and ample vaccine supply. Last year it was 45 percent overall for health care workers, with M.D.s having the highest vaccine rate at 51 percent. R.N.s had a rate of 45 percent, while care partners had 37 percent.

“We would like to see nurses and care partners have participation rates at least as high as that of physicians,” Swift said.

Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, urged VUMC staff, faculty, volunteers and students to get a vaccine as well.

“Please help us continue our commitment to providing our patients with the very best in health care by protecting yourself, our patients and their families.”