To keep its employees and patients as healthy as possible, The University of Toledo is implementing a universal flu shot policy for those in the hospital, ambulatory services, off-site clinics and others whose duties or positions cause them to be in patient care areas.
The flu shot, which will be offered free of charge, is being required for all doctors, faculty, staff, students, health-care workers and volunteers. Flu shots also are being offered on Main Campus, where the immunization is not required but highly encouraged.
“We want to provide the best possible care for our patients and the safest working and learning environment for our employees and students,” said Ann Smith, UT director of infection and prevention. “The flu spreads easily, so we would like to prevent that from happening. The goal is to protect our staff and faculty as well as our patient population.”
Smith said influenza is a respiratory infection that can lead to serious complications, especially for young children, older adults and those with certain medical conditions. Even if a UT employee doesn’t work directly with patients, he or she can help prevent the spread of disease by being immunized, Smith said.
Many national health advisory organizations, including the American Hospital Association, Infectious Disease Society of America and American College of Physicians, support mandatory influenza immunization for those in the health-care field. More far-reaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older be vaccinated each year.
“This is something that many of our staff are already receiving every year, which we appreciate,” Smith said. “With this change in policy, we intend to move to widespread compliance because it just takes one sick person to spread it to others.”
Getting the immunization is easy. By logging onto the Fluprep website at utoledo.edu/fluprep, people can fill out the vaccine administration questionnaire in advance and take a look at the immunization schedule as well as fact sheets and other important information. If those affected by the new policy receive a flu shot outside of UT, they need to upload proof on the Fluprep website. Exemption requests, which are due by Nov. 15, also can be found at the same website. Those granted an exemption will be required to wear a mask during flu season, which runs from Dec. 1 through March 31.
Dr. Carl Sirio, chief operating officer and chief medical and clinical officer for The University of Toledo Medical Center, said those on Health Science Campus are beginning to embrace this new policy because employees understand the benefits of being vaccinated for the flu.
“We don’t want to make each other sick,” Sirio said. “This is the responsible thing to do for ourselves and for our patients because the flu virus is adaptable and hard to avoid.”
Smith said being immunized will just take a few seconds and is relatively painless.
“The flu shot does not cause someone to get sick with the flu, despite what some people claim. That is a misconception,” Smith said. “It might cause a little muscle pain or a general feeling of discomfort, illness or uneasiness, but it does not make someone sick with the flu.”