Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we require the flu vaccine?
The safety and well-being of our patients are at the heart of Johns Hopkins All Children’s mission. Each year, approximately 36,000 people die and 226,000 are hospitalized due to the flu. These are preventable deaths. Requiring an annual flu vaccine demonstrates our commitment to protect the safety and health of our patients, many of whom already have weakened immune systems, as well as visitors, co-workers and our families.
Overall, voluntary programs have not been effective at significantly increasing vaccination rates. Making the flu vaccine mandatory is a step that has already been taken by many of the healthcare systems in Florida and in many hospitals throughout the nation.
Preventing transmission of the flu is especially important at children’s hospitals, where many patients are too young to be immunized. It is a high priority at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, where more than half of our patients can’t be immunized because they are too young or their immune systems are too fragile.
Who does this policy apply to?
This policy applies to all personnel at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital: employees, medical staff and allied health professionals, resident physicians and fellows, students, trainees, volunteers, vendors and temporary workers. It applies to personnel in the hospital, all of the other buildings on our main campus, and the regional Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care locations.
How effective are flu vaccines, especially since virus strains keep changing?
The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu. The vaccine is up to 90 percent effective in preventing influenza in healthy adults. Public health officials have a good track record of predicting the three main flu strains that will cause the most illness during each flu season. These strains usually change each year which is why the vaccine is given annually. Even if you get the flu from a strain of the virus that wasn’t included in the vaccine, having the vaccine can make your illness milder. That means you will feel less sick, miss fewer days of work, and be at lower risk for possible complications of the flu.
Why can't we just rely on good hand hygiene and wearing masks?
Our personnel have frequent contact with high-risk patients in many settings, including the elevators and cafeteria. They can spread the flu virus even before they experience symptoms. When employees come down with flu they must stay home from work, this puts additional stress on the staff of busy units and offices and exposes coworkers and families to the flu.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s goal is to protect patients, employees and their coworkers and families from potential exposure to the flu. Immunization is the most effective way to accomplish this goal.
What counts as proof of immunization?
There are several types of documentation we will accept: a signed statement from the healthcare provider written on a prescription pad; a receipt showing that you received this year's flu vaccine or a similar document. You must provide this to Employee Health Services (employees and volunteers), to the Medical Staff Office (non-employed physicians and credentialed allied health professionals), or as directed. This must be submitted by November 15, 2017.
If I get the seasonal flu vaccine in the early fall, will I still be protected if the flu season continues into March or April?
Yes. Protection from the particular strains included in the vaccine will last for the entire season.
Is it true that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine?
This is NOT TRUE. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine are killed (as is the case with the shot) so that they cannot cause the flu. Some people mistakenly confuse flu symptoms with potential vaccine side effects such as a minor fever.
Will the flu vaccine make me feel ill?
Almost all people who receive the influenza vaccine have no side effects. Some people may experience minor side effects. If these occur, they begin soon after the shot was given and usually last no more than one to two days. The most common side effects are:
- Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
- Low-grade fever and aches
Any employee who believes that they are experiencing side effects related to the vaccination should contact Employee Health Services.
I am pregnant. Should I get the flu vaccine?
Yes. Pregnant women should receive the flu shot. It is especially important for pregnant women to get the flu shot as you are more likely to have serious complications to yourself and your pregnancy if you get the flu. Once you get the flu shot, your body will start producing antibodies that will help protect you against the flu, and this protection can be passed to your unborn baby. According to the CDC, you can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester, while you are pregnant.
What about an individual who has medical or religious reasons for declining vaccination?
An exemption to the vaccination policy may be requested for certain medical reasons, including documentation of severe allergy to the vaccine or components as defined by the most current recommendations of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) or a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome within six weeks of a receiving an influenza vaccine.
If receiving the vaccination conflicts with sincerely held religious beliefs, you may submit a request for religious accommodation.
What documentation do I need to provide to request a medical exception?
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital personnel requesting a medical exception must submit a declination form and a request for medical exemption form to Employee Health Services by October 27, 2017. These forms can be found in the Influenza Vaccination policy on CONNECT. The policy is also included in this webpage.
My religion requires me to decline vaccination. What should I do?
If you are requesting to decline the vaccine for religious reasons, you must fill out the declination form and a request for religious accommodation and submit it to Liz Bayron in Employee Relations by October 27, 2017. These forms can be found in the Influenza Vaccination Policy posted on CONNECT and in the Employee section of this web page.
If my declination for medical or religious reasons is approved, will I still be able to work?
Yes. Those who cannot receive the flu vaccine, whether for religious or medical reasons, will be required to properly wear a protective surgical mask over their mouth and nose within six feet of any patient and when entering a patient room during the influenza season (which will end when the Johns Hopkins All Children's Vice President of Medical Affairs declares flu season is over). This important step to prevent flu transmission is supported by national patient safety and infectious disease prevention organizations.
Anyone who is granted a medical exemption or religious accommodation but who fails to wear a surgical mask within six feet of a patient during the influenza season will be subject to corrective action.
What happens if I don’t want to get the vaccine?
Employees: Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital employees covered by this policy who fail to comply and who have not received a medical exemption or religious accommodation will be placed on an unpaid administrative leave of 3 days. If, at the end of the administrative leave, the employee has not met the vaccination requirement, the employee will be considered to have voluntarily resigned.
Non-employed medical staff (including MDs, DOs, PAs and ARNPs): Members of the medical staff who are not employed by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and who do not comply with the flu vaccine requirement by November 15, 2017 (the week prior to Thanksgiving) will have their staff privileges suspended until they provide proof of immunization or until the JHACH Vice President of Medical Affairs declares flu season has ended. Medical staff members who wish to apply for a medical or religious exemption must submit a completed request form to the Medical Staff Office by October 27, 2017. Forms are included in the Johns Hopkins All Children's Influenza Vaccine Policy included on this website.
Volunteers, vendors, trainees, students, residents or fellows, volunteers, vendors or temporary workers who do not provide proof of immunization by November 15, 2017 will not be permitted on the premises of the main hospital campus or any of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care locations. Medical exemptions or religious workplace accommodations can only be granted to employees and medical staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.