|Choice should be Mandatory|
Some Mercy Memorial Hospital System employees who work near patients now are wearing surgical masks while on the job, a sign that flu season has arrived. The hospital started a policy in September, 2011, requiring all employees to get annual flu shots, except for those who opt out due to medical, religious or personal reasons. But part of the policy requires those who haven’t been vaccinated to wear surgical masks within six feet of patients once the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined flu activity has reached the regional level, so the mask rule now is in effect and will run through the end of the flu season in April. The hospital’s goal is to have at least 90 percent of its employees vaccinated against the flu. “We’re close, but not there yet,” said Matthew Hefner, a hospital spokesman. The hospital began staff vaccinations in September and will continue to offer them through April.
The CDC said the nation is experiencing an early flu season with high levels of activity concentrated in the south central and southeastern regions of the country at this time. Michigan health officials said the number of lab-confirmed cases of the flu is rising and Michigan estimates its flu vaccination coverage at 38.8 percent, which is lower than the national average of 42 percent. Confirmed cases of flu in Michigan are at a level that was not reached until mid-January of the last flu season, state figures show. “Every year, flu spreads across the country from person to person, family to family, and community to community,” said James K. Haveman, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “One of the greatest challenges we face from the flu is the uncertainty of the disease. Flu viruses are constantly changing, which is why we need to protect ourselves and our families with an annual flu vaccine.” Mercy Memorial employees who received the vaccine can be identified by a green 2012 sticker on their employee badge, hospital officials said.
Employees have the option of getting the vaccination at no cost at Mercy Memorial’s Corporate Connection office or through their personal physicians. They then present proof of vaccination to receive a 2012 badge sticker. Although the flu vaccine is said to be the most effective way to prevent the flu, the best way to prevent its spread is good hand hygiene. People should wash their hands properly for two minutes with an antibacterial soap to help eliminate germs. They should cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing also is key. In addition, they should avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths which can spread infection. And they should stay home when they are sick to prevent the flu from spreading at places of work or school.s Flu shots are recommended for everyone 6 months and older and for those who are at high risk for complications.
Vaccine Exemption Forms