March 23, 2018
2 min read

Mandatory flu vaccine policies reduce absenteeism in health care workers

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Trish Perl
Trish M. Perl

Study findings suggest that mandatory influenza vaccination policies for health care workers are associated with an approximately 30% increase in vaccination rates and reduce the occurrence and duration of symptomatic absences, researchers said.

According to previous findings, 78.6% of health care personnel reported receiving an influenza vaccination during the 2016-2017 season, including 92.3% of those who worked in a hospital setting. Coverage was highest — 96.7% — in settings where vaccination was required.

In a new study, Trish M. Perl, MD, MSc, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and colleagues, said reducing symptomatic absenteeism through vaccination could help maintain staff levels during patient surges, like the one seen during the current influenza season, which has been marked by high rates of illness and hospitalization.

For their study, Perl and colleagues calculated the incidence and duration of absenteeism at three health care sites with mandatory vaccination policies and compared them with four sites that did not mandate vaccination. Health care personnel participating in the Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical (ResPECT) trial self-reported vaccination status and symptomatic days of absence from work during three peak influenza seasons from 2012 to 2015.

Among 2,304 participants at mandatory vaccination sites, 97.1%, 96.3% and 92.1% of participants reported being vaccinated in the three seasons, respectively, according to Perl and colleagues. Coverage was much lower among 1,759 participants at nonmandatory sites — just 67.9%, 63.3% and 60.4% reported vaccination over the three seasons, respectively.

Perl and colleagues estimated the proportion of health care personnel claiming any sick days to be 5.9% lower at mandatory sites than nonmandatory sites (95% CI, –12.5 to –1.4; P = .02).

They said their findings “have implications for health care institutions, governmental agencies, and others whose goal is to provide the safest work environment.”

“This study is unique and demonstrates that mandatory influenza vaccination policies were associated with increased HCP vaccination,” Perl and colleagues wrote. “Additionally, we demonstrated a benefit to individual [HCPs} and facilities in that the total number of symptomatic [influenza-like illness; ILI] days absent was lower if individuals were vaccinated or worked in settings with highly vaccinated employee populations. These findings suggest that rates of workplace symptomatic ILI absenteeism may be reduced as HCP influenza vaccination rates increase, and they should be considered in the development of HCP influenza vaccination policies.” – by Gerard Gallagher

For more information:


Hertzberg VS, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2018;doi:10.1073/pnas.1711611115.

Disclosures: Perl and another author report being co-investigators on a grant from MedImmune awarded to Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes and not related to influenza or influenza vaccine research.