As part of ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of the seasonal influenza virus, the University of Michigan Health System has instituted a new policy mandating that all employees must get a flu vaccination.
The policy, which replaces the five-year-old policy that only required employees working in clinical settings to get a vaccine, stipulates that all employees must get their vaccination before Dec. 1 unless they are exempted for medical or religious purposes. Employees who do not comply will face disciplinary action.
“Progressive corrective action could include a verbal warning through termination,” said UMHS spokeswoman Mary Masson.
An e-mail sent to all UMHS employees said the health system is not the first to implement this practice.
“Health systems across the country have already adopted this best practice, which is proven to reduce the spread of flu,” the e-mail read.
The new system will considerably expand the number of employees required to get vaccinated.
Though the old policy covered employees who had direct contact with patients, the new policy aims to ensure that the entire health system environment is free from the virus; even employees without patient contact, like volunteers, vendors, contract workers and temporary workers, will now have to get a vaccination.
“This year we have improved the policy to better ensure that our patients remain safe while in our care,” Masson said.
Employees who receive medical or religious exemptions will have to wear face masks before entering patient care areas throughout the flu season.
Influenza causes millions of infections and thousands of deaths every year in the United States. The virus can survive on hard, non-porous surfaces for hours to days depending on environmental factors. It can be contagious a day before symptoms appear and remain contagious for five to seven days after symptoms emerge.
UMHS employees can get their flu vaccinations at free clinics throughout October, several of which are offered through Occupational Health Services in the Med Inn Building. For all other members of the University community, the University Health Service provides appointments for flu shots. The University is currently participating in the College and University Flu Vaccination Challenge against schools across the state such as Michigan State University and Wayne State University.