October 6, 2011

VUMC leaders urge health care providers to get flu shot

VUMC leaders urge health care providers to get flu shot

The national health care initiative Healthy People 2020 has set a goal that health care providers achieve a vaccination rate of 90 percent or higher – a goal that Vanderbilt faculty members and other health care providers are also being challenged to meet or exceed.

“We had a record high flu vaccine year in 2009 with the H1N1 pandemic, but last season our Medical Center vaccination rate fell to 57 percent, about where it was before H1N1, and that’s disappointing,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System.

“Although we don’t mandate that our faculty, staff and students receive a flu shot, we highly, highly encourage it.”

Pinson and executive co-chair Marilyn Dubree, MSN, R.N., Executive Chief Nursing Officer, say that Flulapalooza, held on Wednesday, Oct. 12, offers that opportunity.

“The flu is not just a bad cold,” Dubree said. “In addition to short-term misery and having to miss work, the flu can have more serious implications.”

Corey Slovis, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, agrees. “I am amazed at how many people choose not to get the flu shot and then end up so sick in the ED,” he said.

Nancy Brown, chairman of the Department of Medicine, said more than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for flu-related complications – pneumonia, hospitalization and death. “Why wouldn’t we as health care providers do what we could to reduce that?”

William Schaffner, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, is perhaps Vanderbilt’s most vocal proponent of the flu vaccine.

In addition to encouraging the flu shot locally, he is frequently interviewed by national media about the importance of the flu vaccine.

“Millions of doses are given each year – it is safe,” Schaffner said.

“You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine,” he said. “It’s also a patient safety issue. We all get flu vaccine so that we won’t give flu to our patients. It is our ethical and professional responsibility to protect our patients.”