With a little more than a month left before deadline, more than 7,000 of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s 9,600 faculty and staff and 3,000 students have rolled up their sleeves for mandatory flu shots.
Only a small number of employees have requested exemptions from Human Resources for medical or religious concerns, said Michael Estes, chief human resources officer. Employees have until Dec. 9 to voluntarily get the immunization, whether it’s at UMMC, the Jackson Medical Mall, or from a private provider off campus.
“This has gone remarkably smoothly,” Estes said. “I trust that at the end of the day, people are going to do the right thing.”
The Medical Center’s Mandatory Flu Vaccination Policy requires all employees and students, regardless of their clinical responsibility or patient contact, to be vaccinated from the flu annually. The policy also applies to vendors, contract or temporary workers, volunteers and students visiting the Medical Center campus.
The policy approved in August was created to help protect patients, faculty and staff from the highly contagious virus. The Joint Commission is requiring that by 2020, all medical centers nationally have 95 percent of employees vaccinated. “We must demonstrate we are working toward that. Mandatory is the only way to accomplish it,” said Dr. Rathel “Skip” Nolan, UMMC professor and clinical director of infectious diseases.
Immunizations are free and available from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays in the Office of Student/Employee Health. Proof of vaccination forms and exemption forms must be submitted to the Office of Student/Employee Health by Monday, Nov. 10.
Those with no exemption who don’t get an immunization by the deadline face suspension without pay for a week. They may return immediately to work, however, if they receive their vaccination during that week.
If an employee is not in compliance after a week, he or she will be terminated. Students face termination from class a week after written notification of non-compliance.
Flu shot doses ran out quickly when a station was set up in mid-October at the Jackson Medical Mall, said Jane Free, nurse manager in the Office of Student/Employee Health.
But shots will be available again Monday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the Medical Mall’s Grand Rounds Room. That’s where UMMC registered dietitian Dacia Breeden plans to get hers.
“I am glad they are providing it here at the Jackson Medical Mall, which makes it so much easier for the UMMC employees working at the mall clinics,” Breeden said. “I am expecting a baby this December, and my OB-GYN doctor has highly recommended I get the flu shot as soon as possible to protect both me and my baby from the upcoming flu season.”
“We’ve given a ton of shots so far,” Free said of the immunization campaign, including 3,192 doses administered during an Oct. 15 campus blitz to kick off the effort. ‘With such a large group, it’s been very positive, and it’s free and convenient.”
Setting up immunization stations in locations around campus allowed employees to get their vaccination during the workday, she said. For the next week or so, she said, an immunization station will remain in the School of Medicine hallway. Those who come to the Student/Employee Health will have their badge scanned and will be immediately directed to the School of Medicine station so that the office won’t become too congested.
UMMC School of Pharmacy student Emily Draper is among those who’ve helped give the immunizations. She got her shot in September from a local pharmacy after hearing early reports of local cases of the flu.
“We have a duty to our patients and colleagues to provide a healthy environment that promotes healing,” Draper said. As part of the UMMC flu blitz team, she said, “I was able to help demonstrate the impact that pharmacy students can have on patient care.”
A decision will be made before the Dec. 9 deadline on requests for religious or medical exemptions, Free said.
“We’re trying to be level-headed about this, and our intent is to protect patients, employees and their colleagues,” Estes said. “It’s good medicine to do this unless there is a compelling and legitimate reason.”