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

News Release
August 20, 2014

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

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

The Minnesota Department of Health's FluSafe program awarded more ribbons for the 2013-14 season than ever before. A total of 180 Minnesota hospitals and nursing homes achieved vaccination rates of 70 percent or greater.

In the fourth year of the FluSafe program, 213 health care facilities participated during the 2013-14 flu season. Of the 180 facilities earning ribbons, 60 reached vaccination levels of 90 percent or greater, earning blue ribbons; 63 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.

"Awarding more ribbons means more protection from flu for patients, residents and health care workers in our hospitals and nursing homes," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control at MDH. "We're still striving for all facilities to reach that blue ribbon level of 90 percent coverage, but we're getting closer every year."

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. Since the beginning of the FluSafe program in 2010-11, the number of facilities achieving 90 percent coverage rates or higher has more than doubled from 27 in 2010-2011 to 60 in 2013-2014. For the 2013-14 season, 28 percent of facilities reached the Healthy People 2020 goal, which was an increase from 26 percent in the 2012-13 season.

Unvaccinated health care workers pose a greater risk of passing highly contagious influenza to vulnerable patients, without even knowing it. 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. National rates of influenza vaccination of health care workers are estimated at 72 percent.

Ehresmann said she was pleased with the increased number of ribbons awarded by the FluSafe program this past year and hopes that more facilities will take advantage of the program to keep that number climbing next year. "There are approximately 375 nursing homes in the state, where so many of our most vulnerable residents live, so we're working with our partners to get more facilities to take action and participate," she said. There are approximately 145 hospitals in the state, of which 100 participated last season.

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 by showing their commitment to patient safety," said Denise Dunn, immunization education and partnerships supervisor. "The participating hospitals and nursing homes are actively fighting influenza by encouraging employees to get vaccinated. Annual vaccination keeps workers and their families healthier, too."

More information on the FluSafe program, including a list of the 2013-14 facilities earning blue, red and white ribbons, can be found on the MDH website at


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications