Protecting against the flu

High immunisation rates for healthcare workers are essential to reduce transmission of influenza in healthcare settings.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) determines the healthcare worker (HCW) influenza vaccination target each year for all hospitals. The 2020 compliance rate was set at 90 per cent.

In 2020, Mercy Hospitals Victoria Ltd exceeded the 90 per cent target set by DHHS with an overall influenza vaccination compliance rate of 95 per cent. This includes Mercy Hospital for Women, Werribee Mercy Hospital and Mercy Health O’Connell Family Centre. The influenza vaccination was also open to volunteers and consumer advisors who attended our sites.

In NSW health facilities, annual influenza vaccination is either recommended or mandatory for those who work in high risk clinical settings. Annual influenza vaccination of health workers, other clinical personnel, students and contacts with those who are immunocompromised is mandated for some risk categories and strongly recommended for other groups to reduce the potential for influenza transmission in extreme risk areas. As NSW Health does not set influenza vaccination targets, the NSW sites of Mercy Health adopted the DHHS target of 90 per cent.

In 2020, Mercy Health hospitals in New South Wales exceeded the 90 per cent target set by DHHS with an overall influenza vaccination compliance rate of 94 per cent. This includes Mercy Hospital Albury and Mercy Care Centre Young. The influenza vaccination was also open to volunteers and consumer advisors who attended our sites.

Both sites in NSW also increased the number of clinics held throughout April. Respiratory testing was increased overall, reflecting the on-going coronavirus pandemic. The rate of influenza activity was low across all local health districts, including the Murrumbidgee Local Health District which is where the Mercy Health NSW sites are located.

Across Mercy Health, the influenza vaccination campaign was open to staff and saw an increase in staff presenting for vaccination due to coronavirus, with many early scheduled vaccination sessions seeing a high volume of staff presenting. The location of influenza vaccination sessions was changed to allow for increased social distancing measures to be maintained.

Session times were changed from previous years to commence earlier in the morning to provide night shift staff with more opportunity to access the vaccination. We also provided mobile sessions, where flu vaccines are taken to the wards and staff vaccinated as they work. This meant that staff in high acuity areas did not have to leave their departments.

All of these initiatives and measures meant that more staff were able to receive the vaccination in a coronavirus-safe environment.

Staff who declined the vaccine in 2019 were surveyed about the reasons behind their choices. Information about allergies and reactions to the vaccine were addressed in education campaigns.

Compliance rates were reported regularly to Executive and department managers, who were encouraged to follow up with any staff whose vaccinations were outstanding.

Mercy Hospital for Women vaccinated 96 per cent of staff against influenza. Werribee Mercy hospital vaccinated 95 per cent. Mercy Mental Health vaccinated 91 per cent of their staff, a significant improvement to the 2019 campaign, which saw 70 per cent of staff vaccinated.

Last reviewed February 17, 2021.

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