Some Calif. counties require dental teams to get flu vaccine

By Melissa Busch, DrBicuspid.com assistant editor

November 13, 2020 -- About one-sixth of the counties in California have ordered healthcare workers, including dental professionals, to get vaccinated for influenza, according to information from county health departments.

Of the 58 counties in the state, the following have mandated that dental teams and other healthcare workers who work closely with patients be vaccinated for the flu: Fresno, San Diego, Kern, Madera, Placer, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, Tehama, and Yolo.

San Diego, for example, has mandated flu vaccination for all healthcare workers since 2014, but other counties have shifted from a recommendation to a requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Counties in California appear to be the only ones in the U.S. that are mandating the flu vaccine.

Recommended but many don't get it

For years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all healthcare professionals receive the influenza vaccine. However, the CDC noted that it's especially important this year due to the risk of exposure to the flu and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Despite this recommendation, only about 81% of healthcare professionals, which includes everyone from dental professionals to lab personnel to clerical workers at hospitals, received flu shots during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to the CDC. That statistic is on par with the past five seasons in which about 77% to 81% were vaccinated.

Same idea with slight variations

Though all 10 counties in California are requiring immunization, some orders contain other interesting details.

Fresno County's order applies to this flu season and all seasons in the future unless the order is rescinded. In addition to getting vaccines, workers must wear masks throughout the influenza season. Because universal masking is already in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers are required to wear purple badges or tags indicating they have received the flu vaccine.

Kern County's order mandates that all healthcare facilities implement a program that requires healthcare workers to receive an annual flu vaccination prior to the influenza season. Those who decline must wear respiratory masks for the duration of the flu season while working within healthcare facilities.

San Luis Obispo County requires any healthcare worker who doesn't get the vaccine to sign a written declination and wear a mask while on duty during flu season. Healthcare workers in Yolo County are required not only to get the flu shot but also to provide evidence of vaccination. Those who can't provide proof or have declined to get inoculated must wear a surgical mask while providing patient care and while in all areas of their workplaces during the flu season.

Other counties strongly recommend healthcare workers get vaccinated, while some, such as San Francisco, only require that workers at hospitals and skilled nursing and long-term care facilities get the flu vaccine by no later than October 31.

On a related note, we recently asked dental human resources expert Tim Twigg about his thoughts on requiring vaccines in the dental practice.


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