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Food, prizes, and gift certificates are among the incentives that have increased influenza immunization rates among health care workers at two Midwest hospital systems.
Mobile vaccination carts have been recommended as a compliance-boosting strategy, and that was one means used at Rapid City (SD) Regional Hospital System of Care, where flu vaccination rates more than doubled from 35% in 1993 to 72% in 1997. Occupational health and infection control practitioners attempted to improve compliance rates after discovering that nosocomial influenza rates fell as the number of immunized employees rose, with apparent cost savings.1
Six cases of nosocomial influenza were found during the 1993 flu season, when 700 of 1,989 employees (35%) were vaccinated. Added patient costs for hospitalization and care were about $24,300.
Essentials of the 1994 campaign to raise staff flu vaccination compliance were managerial support, educational articles, a walk-in clinic during immunization season, a mobile cart taken to wards and clinic areas, and immunizations given at monthly staff meetings. The chance to win a $50 gift certificate was an additional incentive. Those immunized also received candy.
Participation rose to 71% (1,463 of 2,073) of employees in 1994. Only one nosocomial influ enza infection was detected that year, with an estimated additional cost of $150. Immuniza tion rates have remained high, peaking at 1,664 of 2,300 employees (72%) in 1997.
At the University of Kentucky (UK) Hospital in Lexington, between 34% and 55% of eligible HCWs have received influenza vaccine during the past four years. To increase that number, an aggressive campaign was instituted.2
The vaccine manufacturer (Connaught Laboratories, Swiftwater, PA) supplied 100 posters, which were placed in the hospital’s most well-traveled areas accompanied by a vaccination schedule. The posters depicted the personal and work-related impact of influenza. Educational materials were distributed through department heads.
The immunization campaign was launched at a two-day infection control fair held in the hospital as part of national Infection Control Week. Banners, decorations, movies, and games taught infection control principles, and the aroma of fresh popcorn attracted passersby. Vaccine was administered at the fair, and recipients were eligible to enter prize drawings and got coupons for free pizza at the cafeteria. The grand prize included two tickets to a UK basketball game and a stadium jacket.
The campaign continued throughout the week, and a makeup date was scheduled two weeks later. Also, a flu vaccine cart was available for nursing units.
Those efforts paid off with a 51% increase in vaccinees over the year before. Total cost of incentives was $3,568. Organizers estimate that the program will pay for itself if it prevents 17 days of sick leave. They also point to a study showing that immunized adults had 25% fewer upper-respiratory illnesses, 43% fewer lost work days, and 44% fewer physician visits than those not immunized.3
1. Boersma B, Rhames T, Keegan JM. Additional cost savings of an effective employee influenza program on prevention of nosocomial influenza (Letter). Am J Infect Control 1999; 27:177.
2. Hall KL, Holmes SS, Evans ME. Increasing hospital employee participation in an influenza vaccine program (Letter). Am J Infect Control 1998; 26:367.
3. Nichol KL, Lind A, Margolis KL, et al. The effectiveness of vaccination against influenza in healthy, working adults. N Engl J Med 1995; 333:889-893.