Division of Infectious Diseases

Do the Right Thing and Get a Flu Vaccine

Content courtesy of Dr. Mark Rupp.

As the days shorten and there is a bit of fall nip in the morning air, it is a reminder that the respiratory virus season will be here soon.

Although the flu vaccine is not perfect (about 50% protection), it remains our best means to prevent influenza.  We are not able to predict with accuracy whether this will be a mild or severe flu season.  However, it was a worse than average flu season in Australia (remember their winter season is our summer) and this may mean we are in store for a severe flu season.  In any case, it is wise to prepare for the worst.

This year’s quadrivalent vaccine will again contain two “A” strains and two “B” strains and will hopefully match up well with the circulating strains in the community.  The flu vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for all persons aged greater than six months of age.   Flu vaccination is particularly important for healthcare providers because we are in close contact with vulnerable patients who can experience serious complications or death if they contract the flu.  As healthcare providers, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to provide safe care to our patients.  At Nebraska Medicine, we take this responsibility seriously.  Last year, 92% of our providers received the flu vaccine without a mandate.  We are doing the right thing for the right reason- to protect ourselves, our patients and our families.

However, our high rate of influenza vaccination acceptance does not happen by accident.  Months in advance, our colleagues in the pharmacy make sure we order an adequate supply of vaccine.  Each unit and clinic has a “Flu Vaccine Champion” who undergoes special training and then promotes and administers flu vaccine to colleagues. We routinely provide, free of charge, quadrivalent vaccine for most persons.  A high dose vaccine is provided for our co-workers over the age of 65 and a recombinant “egg-free” vaccine is available for those with serious allergy to eggs. The Employee Health Department holds over a dozen open clinics that are conveniently located and scheduled to allow our workers, students, and volunteers to receive the vaccine.

Vaccine status is conveniently tracked and reported via an online database that is constructed and maintained by our experts in Information Technology.  Finally, the whole program is supported by administration at the highest levels.  It truly takes a village to pull this off every year-but it pays off with >90% voluntary vaccine acceptance.

In addition, there are other features to our campaign to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.  We post signs throughout the hospital to alert visitors to not visit if they are sick.  Similarly, we try to avoid “presenteeism” and we urge our healthcare providers to stay home if they are ill.  We aggressively promote hand hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and respiratory etiquette (e.g. “cover your cough”).

So, do the right thing and get your flu vaccine.

See more about influenza and vaccinations at UNMC here.

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