How should we begin to prepare for influenza season?

Vaccinations are key to preparing for the influenza season. With that in mind, the first step is to ensure you have an adequate supply of the flu vaccine for all staff and residents. Before peak flu season arrives, review policies on flu screening, testing and vaccine administration to ensure they are current. 

Prepare education for residents and resident representatives on possible vaccine side effects. This education must be provided before obtaining consent to administer the vaccine. If the resident or resident representative refuses the vaccine, document the refusal in the medical record. Residents must be asked about the vaccine annually, even if they previously declined. 

If staff refuse the vaccine, obtain documentation on the reason for the denial and ensure staff follow the protocol for staff who refuse the vaccine. Depending on facility policy, this may require staff to wear masks for the entire flu season. 

Hand hygiene and personal protective equipment are paramount to preventing the spread of infection. Consider offering refresher education on these two important topics. Once vaccines are provided, staff will need to monitor residents post-vaccination for any side effects, so they may benefit from education on what to monitor and how to document their findings. 

Staff also should be educated on how to monitor for signs and symptoms of active flu and how to handle possible cases. This year, identifying flu versus COVID-19 will be difficult, since they share similar symptoms. Make sure staff know the facility policy and procedure for testing to contain the spread.

Lastly, review past surveys for infection control deficiencies and consider educating regarding any issues previously identified as a concern.