UC Davis Medical Center officials are requiring all employees and volunteers to receive their seasonal flu vaccinations; otherwise they must wear a mask beginning Dec. 1.
The policy is a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of both the H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu, which some health officials say will combine to make one of the worst flu seasons in modern history.
Though employees and volunteers only have access to the seasonal flu vaccine, they will be vaccinated with the H1N1 flu vaccine as soon as it is available. Over 10,000 UCDMC workers will be affected by this policy.
“If [the employees and volunteers] are not vaccinated, they will be bringing it into work, and then our work force will not be able to accomplish our mission to treat patients,” said Allan Siefkin, chief medical officer at UCDMC.
Siefkin added that approximately one third of the world’s population will likely be infected with H1N1 this year, and since humans have no native immunity to the disease, early prevention will be key to controlling it.
The policy will likely not affect the Davis campus employees. Most staff members at the Cowell Student Health Center voluntarily receive vaccinations, said Medical Director Thomas Ferguson.
“This year over 90 percent of our employees were verified vaccinated and we are awaiting information from others who may have been vaccinated elsewhere,” Ferguson said in an e-mail. “We likely have close to 100 percent compliance to this recommendation. I don’t believe we need to make a requirement for this in our workplace since our voluntary compliance is so high already.”
UCDMC expects to be able to administer the H1N1 vaccinations in the next six to 10 weeks. And although the seasonal flu is not expected to hit Sacramento until January, Siefkin said that administering seasonal flu vaccinations at this time ensures early prevention in case the disease arrives early this year.
The seasonal flu vaccination may boost existing antibodies in those who have had a similar flu virus or a vaccination against seasonal flu, and may also lessen the impact of the H1N1 flu, according to a study published in British Medical Journal.
However, in Sacramento, the number of hospitalized H1N1 infections as of Sep. 30 was 163, with nine deaths, according to Sacramento County Public Health center. UCDMC officials worry that the Dec. 1 deadline to receive vaccinations might not be soon enough.
“We may get to the point where we’ll enforce this before we even get the vaccine as a public health action, if this continues to increase,” Siefkin said.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.