92% Iowa hospital workers received flu vaccination Winter 2010 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

92% Iowa hospital workers received flu vaccination Winter 2010

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Almost everyone dreads their annual flu shot -- that includes the folks who give them.

"No one really likes to be vaccinated, it's the dreaded fear of the needle," said Black Hawk County Public Health Director Brian Meisinger.

But leaders in the health care industry note, its crucial for those who care for others, to immunize themselves.

"We encourage and promote the principle that health care workers should be vaccinated to protect themselves. Because they're at risk, but also to protect those coming into the facilities," said Meisinger.

That's why Iowa Healthcare Collaborative is asking all Iowa hospitals and clinics to report how many of their workers are vaccinated. It's done on a voluntary basis, but every facility in Iowa participates.

"In 2006 we established an initiative to try to encourage health care workers to get a flu shot," said Dr. Tom Evans, IHC President. "Our goal now is for every hospital to be at 95%."

Statewide, 92 out of every 100 hospital staff members were vaccinated against seasonal flu. The national rate is only around 50 percent. That puts Iowa at the top of the nation.

For workers at some Iowa hospitals, getting vaccinated isn't a choice. It's a requirement of the job.

"If you work at Allen Hospital, you must be vaccinated," said Allen Hospital spokesman Jim Waterbury. "It's just part of our culture now. We tell people, you must be vaccinated or you must present a waiver."

Allen Hospital's policy puts it near the top -- with 99.7% of workers vaccinated in 2010-2011. Two other local facilities fall to the bottom of state rankings. Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls and Covenant Clinic in Waterloo report fewer than 70 percent of their workers received the flu vaccine last winter. A spokesperson said, it is a top priority for their employees.

"Availability of the flu vaccine for our associates is a priority for our health care system. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare provides numerous opportunities across the system for our associates and volunteers to receive the flu vaccine at no cost to them. We continue to make vaccinations a priority for the safety of our patients and associates," said spokesperson Dana Derflinger in a statement Wednesday.

Sartori and Covenant's vaccination rate is still far higher than the national average. But there is room for improvement in the Cedar Valley and in other communities, and Evans is hoping annual reporting will encourage hospitals to raise their standards.

"I don't know a provider organization that isn't trying to be the very best they can. So when we all share where we are, it creates an opportunity where everyone is raising the standard of care," he said.

In Cedar Rapids, Mercy Medical Center reports 94.9% and Saint Luke's Hospital reports 90.8% of its workers were vaccinated. Mercy Medical Center and The Finley Hospital in Dubuque are just below that, at 89%. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City report 87% of its workers were vaccinated last winter.

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