Flu Immunization of staff helps protect elderly population
The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s goals for influenza immunization rates in the Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCFs) are 100% for residents and 70% for staff. In February 2000, Board of Health celebrated the successful vaccination campaigns in the longterm care facilities, nursing and retirement homes for 1999-2000. Twenty-six of 30 (87%) facilities in the tri-county area, including all 15 long-term care facilities, achieved staff immunization rates of 70% or higher. The average rate per facility was 91%. Twenty-six LTCFs met the Ministry's goal for staff immunization again in 2000-2001. Their average immunization rate was 89%. In July 2000, the Ministry of Health announced its intention to provide influenza immunization to all residents in Ontario, as part of the strategy to relieve pressure on the hospital emergency departments across the province. In September 2000, an article about our Health Unit's experience with the relationship between staff immunization and rates of illness and death was published in a provincial journal. The paper showed that as the rates of staff immunization in the tri-county increased, the number of institutional outbreaks remained fairly constant, but influenza rates and rates of pneumonia, hospitalization, and death declined to less than one-third of the previous year. The addition of the entire population to our original mandate for influenza immunization, at first seemed daunting. We didn't want to lose the momentum that had been generated in the Long Term Care Facilities by turning our focus solely to the immunization of the general population. The Outbreak Team, staffed by Public Health Inspectors and Public Health Nurses, continued to work with the facilities by providing training sessions for staff and support to the infection control officers. They presented a workshop in September, which included a panel discussion about motivating staff to be immunized. Members of this panel were from member LTCFs. The 2000-2001 campaign began in October with immunization clinics in these facilities. The Health Unit, Community Health Centres (CHCs) and physicians began their clinics for other "at risk" individuals and health care providers in the community. The immunization of the general population began in November and continued throughout December. Community clinics staffed by the Health Unit, the Community Health Centres and the acute care hospitals immunized 12,000 residents; the physicians and three CHCs immunized 30, 329 residents. Nine of the larger employers in the tri-county held their own flu-shot clinics, immunizing a total of 2,072 employees through their own occupational health programs/nurses or with the help of the local nursing agencies. A total of 60,964 residents were immunized against influenza.