A new state report shows an alarming number of health care workers at facilities across Massachusetts failed to get vaccinated during flu season, prompting state officials concerned about risks to patients to issue reminder letters to facilities that either failed to report data or fell below state and federal vaccination rate goals.
Among nursing homes, rest homes, dialysis centers, clinics, adult day health centers, non-acute hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers in 2018-2019, no facility type reached state and federal 90% coverage goals overall, state officials said in the report, which was first reported by the Boston Globe.
Ambulatory surgical centers came closest to state and federal goals with 86% overall coverage, but regulators say they will reinforce reporting requirements and statewide performance goals during trainings and conduct on-site visits of nursing homes, rest homes, clinics and adult day health programs to monitor progress.
“First and foremost, health care personnel are directly interacting with residents and patients. They could be transmitting influenza to them and we want to prevent that from happening,” Katherine Fillo, director of clinical quality improvement at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, told the Globe.
The state Department of Health requires licensed facilities to report flu vaccination rates among their workers, who frequently care for patients with weakened immune systems. State regulators say annual immunization is the most effective way to prevent catching or transmitting the flu, or causing potentially serious complications. Facilities are required to offer free vaccines to workers, but they may decline.
On average in 2018-2019, the state’s 315 nursing homes reported 72% of their health care personnel were vaccinated against influenza. Just 30% of the state’s 172 licensed clinics reported vaccination rates of 90% or higher. At the state’s 123 adult day health centers, an average of 61% of personnel had gotten the flu vaccine, while 33% declined.
Regulators recommended that all licensed facilities share vaccination rates with their entire staff, including administrators, boards, practice managers, ombudspersons and patient/family councils to promote improvement.