**SPECIAL BULLETIN** Feds to mandate flu, pneumonia shots for all nursing home residents

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Nursing facilities will have to give all residents flu and pneumonia vaccinations starting this fall, under a new plan from the federal government unveiled today. Facilities that don't take part will risk getting cut off from Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Facilities would have to vaccinate residents unless the residents or their families object, or there were medical reasons for not being vaccinated, according to a statement posted on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Web site today. The proposal, which is still being finalized, also will urge more healthcare workers to receive vaccinations.

The flu kills more than 35,000 Americans each year and causes about 200,000 hospitalizations. Seniors are the most vulnerable to the flu. Just about 65% of nursing home residents received flu shots in 1999, according to one federal study; officials want the number at 90% or higher.

  "As a physician, I know the impact that influenza and pneumococcal infections can have on the elderly, particularly those in nursing homes," said CMS Administrator Mark McClellan. "Greater use of flu shots and pneumococcal vaccine in nursing homes is a proven approach to better health and fewer costly complications for one of our most vulnerable groups of beneficiaries."

Federal officials said they decided to mandate vaccinations after hearing from experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the country's two major nursing home associations.

The proposed rule is to be published in Monday's Federal Register. It will have a truncated comment period, just 15 days, because of the upcoming flu season, officials said.