Health care personnel immunization programs are an essential element in protection of the patients, the community, and the health care worker.
Immunization of health-care personnel: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Provision of immunization services involves selection of the appropriate vaccine(s), maintenance of the vaccine in the appropriate environmental condition, safe administration of the vaccine(s), and documentation of the process including adverse events.,
General recommendations on immunization. 2011.
A review of the vaccine cold chain was conducted in 2009 by McColloster and Vallbona with results demonstrating a positive correlation between vaccine storage temperature and pertussis rates among a group of counties in Texas.
- McColloster R.
- Vallbona C.
Graphic-output temperature data loggers for monitoring vaccine refrigeration: implications for pertussis.
Given the importance of immunization programs, incorporating a process that evaluates safety, effectiveness, and efficiency is critical. Ensuring that existing practices are in alignment with accepted best practices is therefore key in protecting the safety of the health care workforce, the patients, and the community. Errors and near miss opportunities may be avoided through an assessment of existing practice, as well as through the identification of practice deviations and process defects. It is therefore necessary that health care personnel immunization programs have an evaluation component that focuses on prevention of error and incorporates a transparent process that provides the attention and resources that may be needed.
Use of performance improvement and continuous improvement methodologies are recognized standards of care practices. Accreditation standards and regulatory requirements work to ensure adherence with best practices, rapid identification of at-risk situations, and transparency with respect to process and outcomes reporting. However, this same level of oversight is not found within health care personnel immunization programs. At present, neither The Joint Commission nor the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services include standards that seek to identify current vaccine handling, management, selection practices, education and training of personnel responsible for the program, or adverse events related to the immunization program. This may be an oversight with the potential for high impact error. Carrico et al recently reported on results from a national study examining the current conditions of health care personnel immunization programs, and a number of concerns were identified including handling, management, and selection of vaccines, as well as the education and training of those responsible for the program.
- Carrico R.M.
- Wiemken T.
- Westhusing K.
- Christensen D.
- McKinney W.P.
Heath care personnel immunization programs: an assessment of knowledge and practice among infection preventionists in US health care facilities.
Those results, as well as the results from McColloster and Vallbona, beg the question as to whether health care personnel immunization programs are currently being monitored by any agency or organization external to the facility as a means of ensuring current best practices and objective identification of existing deficiencies in the processes. The aim of this study was to determine presence of a state process or initiative that focuses on evaluation of health care personnel immunization programs.
Materials and methods
A survey was designed to ask 11 specific questions concerning monitoring of health care personnel immunization programs at the state public health level. The 11 questions asked the following: (1) whether a current survey process exists; (2) if so, what agency or branch is responsible for the monitoring process; (3) in which types of health care facilities are the surveys performed; (4) are vaccine storage methods monitored; (5) whether there is a process for assessing vaccine administration techniques; (6) whether practice competencies are assessed; (7) whether safe infection practices are verified in any way; (8) does the survey monitor vaccine expiration dates; (9) are health care personnel immunization rates verified in any way; (10) whether there are any state-mandated vaccines for health care personnel; and (11) whether any adverse events related to health care personnel immunization are collected or have been reported.
The target sample for the survey included personnel at each of the 50 states and District of Columbia departments of public health. A script was developed to ensure that questions were asked in a consistent manner and enabled the study personnel to navigate through various departments, divisions, and branches at each state department of public health. The introductory question was, “Does your state (or District of Columbia) currently have a survey process that looks at or monitors health care personnel immunization programs in any health care facilities in your state (or district)?” The call process began with each state’s immunization branch then followed with calls to other departments including the individual state’s Health care-Associated Infection program, Division of Epidemiology, Health Planning, Communicable Diseases, Environmental and Sanitation, Vaccines for Children, Office of the Inspector General, and any other department identified during the conversation as having the potential for presence or knowledge of a monitoring program. If any department indicated that they did not know whether a monitoring program existed, the research personnel asked to be transferred to the next department, division, or branch. If all contacted individuals indicated that they were unaware of a monitoring program, they were then asked whether they had any suggestion for additional personnel to contact to answer the survey questions. All survey questions were openly shared in an effort to help clarify the intent of the survey and ensure that all possible avenues were explored. Once all departments, divisions, and branches had been contacted and all answers indicated the lack of a monitoring process, the final result for that state was entered as “no monitoring process.” If any monitoring process was in place, the response for that state was “presence of a monitoring process,” and the entire survey was then administered. The survey was designed to be administered over the telephone and/or e-mailed upon request. After all states and the District of Columbia were contacted, each was then categorized as either having or not having a monitoring program for health care personnel immunization. A minimum of 3 attempts was made at contacting the various individual(s) and/or departments. After those 3 attempts, no further contact was initiated.
Responses from 47 states were obtained. Contact was unable to be made (eg, multiple messages left without return calls) with 3 states and the District of Columbia. Table 1
provides a summary of the survey responses.
Table 1Health care personnel immunization program assessment questions and responses
No state reported having a survey process that monitors health care worker immunization programs. However, 4 states reported that they have vaccines mandated for health care workers (Table 1
, Question 10). Rhode Island requires health care workers to have the MMR, varicella, and Tdap vaccines; New Jersey requires measles, and rubella; Wisconsin requires rubella; and New Mexico requires the influenza vaccine.
Our assessment indicates that vaccine evaluation processes are rare to nonexistent in health care facilities in the United States. Forty-seven states responded to the telephone survey, and none of the respondents indicated there was a monitoring process in place for health care personnel immunization programs within any health care facilities in their state, including the 4 states with state-mandated health care personnel vaccines. Most respondents indicated that they only had a survey process for the Vaccines for Children Program and no other monitoring or evaluation of any other immunization service or provision. This negated the need to complete the rest of the survey questions because this indicated that no health care personnel immunization programs were part of that survey or monitoring process.
The survey process has a crucial limitation. The inability to identify a single department or individual to contact within each state public health department may have limited the research personnel from receiving the most informed responses. For example, this lack of knowledge may have resulted in a survey process that failed to query the correct individual with knowledge of an existing monitoring program.
The results of the survey demonstrate an opportunity to improve the management and handling of vaccines used to immunize health care personnel. In addition, focusing attention on this potential practice gap may reveal a broader opportunity to address vaccine handling and management in other health care settings, including outpatient care settings. Development of an evaluative process with key improvement components may enable use of the public health workforce skill set within the area of immunization practices. A first step in such an initiative could be the development of interprofessional work groups to explore existing practices in health care settings, develop a collaborative monitoring process, and then build on the findings to address practice gaps. This type of initiative represents a novel opportunity for those professionals with expertise in infection prevention, program evaluation, public health, and vaccinology to collaborate for the good of their communities.
In conclusion, our results indicate a great need for a more formal, state-level evaluative process for health care worker immunization programs. Without formal oversight, the health and safety of health care workers, patients and community members may be at risk.
Published online: October 31, 2013
Conflicts of interest: None to report.
© 2014 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.