The MGH has approved a new Influenza (Flu) Vaccine Policy, requiring that all employees, professional staff and non-employees – volunteers, students and others – receive a vaccination for influenza before the start of the 2018-2019 flu season. The MGH flu task force has shared the following Q&A about this year’s flu season and new policy. Learn more at www.askmyHRportal.com.
Why is the MGH changing its Influenza Policy for the 2018-2019 flu season?
Influenza kills approximately 36,000 people each year in the United States. While the flu is a dangerous virus, most cases can be prevented by receiving the annual flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control confirms that receiving the flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the spread of flu. The MGH and its employees have made a promise to our patients and their families to consistently deliver safe and quality patient care. To do this, we must do everything we can to prevent the spread of the flu.
Am I required to receive a flu shot this year?
Yes. All employees, professional staff, volunteers and non-employees must receive the vaccine before Nov. 15. Employees who do not receive the vaccine by this date are subject to corrective action, up to and including termination.
Are there any exemptions to this new policy?
Employees who have a medical contraindication to the influenza vaccine – such as a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome or a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine – can request exemption through Occupational Health Services. Employees who wish to decline the vaccine because of a deeply held religious belief can do so by consulting with Human Resources. The deadline for requesting an exemption is Oct. 15.
Will the MGH offer free flu shots for employees this year?
Yes. Occupational Health Services will offer flu clinics at several MGH sites in September and October. A complete schedule will be posted on the Ask myHR portal: www.askmyHRportal.com. The main campus flu clinics will be held Sept. 17 to 21 in the Bulfinch Tent. Vaccines also are available at the Occupational Health clinic at 165 Cambridge St., Suite 404, during normal business hours: 7 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
Is it OK for me to receive my flu shot from my primary care physician or somewhere outside of Partners?
Yes. If you receive your flu shot from a Partners-affiliated primary care physician, your vaccine recorded in Epic will automatically be recorded in PeopleSoft. If your vaccine is received from a non-Partners primary care physician or clinic – such as CVS or Walgreens – you will need to provide proof of vaccination to Occupational Health Services before Nov. 15. To submit documentation of vaccination received outside of Partners, bring it in person to Occupational Health Services or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t interact with patients as part of my job. Do I have to get the flu shot?
Yes. All MGH employees, professional staff, volunteers and non-employees are required to receive a vaccine. Even if you do not interact with patients as part of your job, you likely share office or lab space with someone who does. Protecting yourself with a flu shot also means that you are protecting your coworkers and their family members.
Last year, there were stories on the news that said the flu shot didn’t work. Why are you requiring me get one?
Reports of last year’s flu shot being ineffective were inaccurate. The Centers for Disease Control reported that last year’s vaccine was no more than 30 percent effective in stopping the current strain of flu. Those who received the vaccine but still got the flu reported milder symptoms and quicker recoveries. In a hospital environment, where we see some of the sickest patients, we must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this very serious virus.
I received a medical or religious exemption, so I will not be receiving a flu shot. Do I need to wear a mask in patient care areas?
Yes. Although we have changed our vaccination policy, there is no change to the Flu Mask Policy that is implemented by the hospital during flu season. All employees who are not vaccinated and work in patient care areas must wear a mask when working within six feet of patients. The mask policy will go into effect Nov. 15.
This article was originally published in the 08/24/18 Hotline issue.