News release: Minnesota hospitals, nursing homes recognized for efforts to vaccinate health care workers against influenza

News Release
August 21, 2013

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Minnesota hospitals, nursing homes recognized for efforts to vaccinate health care workers against influenza

Participation in FluSafe program continues to grow in third year, especially among nursing homes

Participation in Minnesota's statewide program to improve influenza vaccination among health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes continued to grow during the 2012-13 season, according to results of the FluSafe program announced today by the Minnesota Department of Health.

In the third year of the FluSafe program, 219 health care facilities participated during the 2012-13 flu season. A total of 177 facilities achieved vaccination rates of at least 70 percent. Among the 2012-13 facilities, 55 reached vaccination levels of 90 percent or greater, earning blue ribbons; 65 were in the 80-89 percent range, earning red ribbons; and 57 reached 70-79 percent, earning white ribbons. All facilities that participate, even those not reaching 70 percent coverage rates, are taking important steps to vaccinate more health care workers, MDH officials said. Since the beginning of the FluSafe program in 2010-11, the number of facilities achieving 90 percent coverage rates or higher has doubled from 27 that year to 55 in 2012-2013.

This year's ribbon-earning facilities will be recognized today during a statewide telephone news conference from MDH offices in St. Paul. A map showing the location of the ribbon-earning facilities will be on display at the MDH booth in the Education Building during the Minnesota State Fair.

Unvaccinated health care workers can pass highly contagious influenza to their patients, many of whom are at high risk for complications from influenza. The FluSafe program aims to get all health care personnel, except those with medical exemptions, at hospitals and nursing homes in Minnesota vaccinated against influenza each season.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of vaccinating 90 percent of health care personnel in its Healthy People 2020 objectives. National rates of influenza vaccination of health care workers are estimated at 66.7 percent. "While some measures show that Minnesota's rates are slightly higher, we are still below the national goals. FluSafe is one way that Minnesota's health care facilities have stepped up to the plate," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology Prevention and Control at MDH.

Ehresmann said she was pleased with the increased number of participants in the FluSafe program this past year and the improvements they've made in their vaccination rates, particularly among nursing homes. A total of 113 nursing homes participated in the program in 2012-13, up from 98 the previous year. "Considering there are some 375 nursing homes in the state, where so many of our most vulnerable residents live, we have plenty of room for improvement," she said. "There were 30 facilities new to the program this year and we're working hard with our partners to get more facilities to take action and participate." There are 145 hospitals in the state, of which 106 participated.

Under the FluSafe program, health care facilities receive guidance and access to tools and promotional materials from MDH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help them increase their rates. The facilities record and document their vaccination rates through the state's electronic immunization information system, the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC).

"The program benefits facilities," said program coordinator Jennifer Heath. "It shows patients and families that the facility's employees are committed to patient safety by actively fighting influenza infection. Annual vaccination keeps workers and their families healthier, too."

More information on the FluSafe program, including a list of the 2012-13 facilities earning blue, red and white ribbons, can be found on the MDH website at

Media may participate in the teleconference from 11-11:30 a.m. today by calling 1-855-336-7597, conference code 28338577.


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications

Jennifer Heath
FluSafe program coordinator