State Releases Online Report on Flu Vaccinations for Health Care Workers

(KCPW News) Patients worried about contracting the flu while in the hospital can now find out which facilities might put them at risk. The Utah Department of Health has released the vaccination rates of every licensed hospital in the state online in an effort to create greater transparency for patients. Rebecca Ward, Health Educator with the Bureau of Epidemiology, says it’s very common for patients to contract the flu from health care workers or for workers to contract the virus from patients.

“We think that patients should be able to go in and obtain the services and get treated, or whatever the case may be, without fear of contracting a serious illness like influenza when it can easily be reduced and prevented by the vaccine,” she tells KCPW.

The department began requiring hospitals in the state to report their health care worker vaccination rates in 2008, but unlike previous reports, Ward says the new data names the hospital facilities publicly.

“Hopefully, that will let people see the rates and know what hospital it’s affiliated with, so that they have a little better assurance when they go in that they’re not going to contract influenza,” she says. “Certainly if they have a higher rate, they have a less chance of contracting influenza with higher vaccinated healthcare workers.”

Ward says since hospitals have been required to report their vaccination rates, they’ve increased from an average of 71.7 percent in 2008 to 93.8 percent in 2011. Although the state doesn’t mandate those vaccinations, she says about 60 percent of Utah hospitals choose to require their employees to have them.