According to a report released by the Safe Patient Project of Consumers Union, nearly half of all hospital workers in California did not get vaccinated for influenza during the 2008-2009 flu season. The Consumers Union is the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. The report, which is being released at the start of the flu season, is based on data that the Department of Public Health is required by law to collect and publish. However, the state has not provided the information to the public. The information was obtained by Consumers Union through a Public Records Act request.
The Consumers Union found that almost half of all healthcare workers in California failed to take the simple step of getting the influenza vaccine despite all the evidence that proves it will reduce flu outbreaks in hospitals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended influenza vaccination of healthcare workers, including doctors, with direct patient contact since the early 1980s. Since 1993 vaccination has been recommended for all healthcare workers. Studies have shown that there is a significant relationship between vaccination rates among hospital workers and the rate of healthcare-acquired influenza among patients. The study also shows that the consequences can be significant when patients who are already sick develop the flu in the hospital. It has been documented that the median mortality rate during hospital-acquired influenza outbreaks in acute care facilities is 16% with an average additional cost of $7,500 per case.
In 2006, a legislation requiring California hospitals to offer on-site influenza vaccines to all hospital employees at no cost was passed by state lawmakers. Since January 2008, hospitals have been required to report to the Department of Public Health the number of employees who were vaccinated along with the number who have declined the vaccination. This information was to be made public by March 2010 by the California Department of Public Health but it never did so.
Consumer Union submitted a Public Records Act request with the Department to find out the progress made by the state to implement the recently enacted patient safety laws. It also asked for the data collected from hospitals on influenza vaccination rates.
Consequently it found that, only 299 hospitals reported influenza vaccination rate data. This means that only 69% of the 432 licensed general acute facilities in California reported vaccination rate data. Further, it found that 136 hospitals did not report data to the Department. This accounts for 31% percent of the licensed general acute care facilities in California. According to the department, it may have lost some of the submitted records and that some hospitals may have been confused about the data they were required to report.