Mandatory influenza vaccination may reduce absenteeism in healthcare workers resulting from flu-like symptoms, according to a study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. The researchers found that it improves vaccination rates by as much as 30% and reduce absenteeism during critical periods by about 6%.

Further, vaccinated healthcare workers had a 30% reduction in absenteeism compared to non-vaccinated healthcare workers overall. Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) was one of the hospitals that mandated the flu vaccine during the trial.

By lowering absenteeism, mandatory influenza vaccination can help hospitals maintain optimum staffing levels especially during the busy respiratory illness season," said Chris Nyquist, medical director, Infection Prevention and Control at Children's Hospital Colorado. "This benefits not only the individuals getting vaccinated but also the organization and, ultimately, the patients,"

Researchers for this study carried out the study over three separate flu seasons at three healthcare systems that mandated influenza vaccination for their employees and at four Veterans Administration (VA) facilities that encouraged but did not mandate influenza vaccination for employees. Healthcare workers at all of the combined institutions were offered free, on-site vaccinations.

Researchers found that:

  1. Influenza vaccination rates of healthcare personnel at the non-mandatory sites were consistently lower than those at the mandatory sites
  2. Vaccination rates fell at non-mandatory sites during the three years of the study
  3. Vaccinated healthcare workers had a 30% reduction in absenteeism compared to non-vaccinated healthcare workers
  4. Absenteeism among healthcare workers was about 6% lower at mandatory sites than non-mandatory sites, and the number of days absent also was lower
  5. Males, older workers, and those at non-mandatory vaccination sites had longer durations of sick leave

"Absenteeism among healthcare personnel can negatively affect a facility's ability to care for patients during busy viral respiratory illness seasons," said Dr. Nyquist. "Given that concern, minimizing absenteeism among healthcare personnel should be a priority when developing influenza vaccination policies."