Face mask mandate dramatically increases healthcare worker flu vaccination

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Making nursing home workers wear face masks if they do not get a flu shot is a highly effective way of increasing vaccination rates, statistics in New York show.

In the 2013-2014 flu season, healthcare worker flu vaccination hit 87%, up from 60.5% a year earlier, according to state Health Department figures. This is being attributed to a new rule that took effect: All unvaccinated workers had to wear a face mask while flu was deemed “prevalent” in the state. Last year, this was from Dec. 19 through June 5.

In the state's central region, nursing home vaccination rates ranged from 65% to 98% last year, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Some workers at The Centers at St. Camillus in Syracuse did not understand that the face masks would have to be worn for the whole flu season, Director of Clinical Services Janine Michalski told the newspaper. Now they grasp the requirement, and flu vaccination rates are up at the 284-bed facility, she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has singled out long-term care facilities as coming up short when it comes to flu vaccination.