Providers dislike rigidity of new flu rule

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Providers agree with the intent of a new federal that requires long-term care facilities to offer influenza immunization annually to residents but stopped short of praising the new regulation.

While greater use of flu shots and vaccine is a good idea in nursing homes, the American Health Care Association disagrees that "a hard and fast rule is the best way to accomplish that goal."

"In fact, such a rule lacks the flexibility necessary to respond to situations like last year's vaccine shortage and could negatively impact assisted living facilities, where the population is also high-risk and the need for influenza vaccination is great," AHCA said in a statement detailing the association's official comments given to federal regulators. An unusually short, 15-day comment period ended Wednesday.

The rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 15, would require facilities to immunize against influenza unless medically contraindicated or when the resident or legal representative refuses immunization. Facilities also have to offer pneumococcal immunization once if there is no history of immunization.