UC Davis Health System adopts new, more stringent flu-prevention policy

UC Davis Vice Chancellor and School of Medicine Dean Claire Pomeroy gets her flu shot © 2009 UC Regents
Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, volunteered to be first for a seasonal flu vaccination.

Hundreds of UC Davis Health System employees helped launch its 2009 schedule of flu vaccinations by attending a seasonal flu-vaccine rally on Thursday, Oct. 8.

Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, was first in line to receive a vaccination. Right behind her was Ann Madden Rice, chief executive officer of UC Davis Medical Center. During the five-hour rally, a total of 1,850 vaccinations were administered.

"We had a fantastic turnout, our best ever," said Neil Speth, medical director of Employee Health Services. "It gave us a great start on this season's schedule of flu vaccinations, and everyone who came out is to be commended for doing their part to keep themselves and our patients protected against the flu."

The rally coincided with the health system’s announcement of its new, more stringent flu vaccine policy, which requires all faculty, staff, students, and vendors and contractors to get vaccinated against the seasonal and H1N1 flu by Dec. 1 or wear masks covering their mouths and noses while at work or school to prevent the spread of infection. The health system’s chief medical and infection prevention officers, however, may require protective masks for staff and students who are not vaccinated for H1N1 sooner than Dec. 1, depending on the incidence of this particular flu in the region.

Dr. Allan Siefkin © 2009 UC Regents"We are taking every reasonable precaution as early as possible."
— Allan Siefkin

The new policy applies to all health system clinics and facilities, including those located on and off the UC Davis Sacramento campus.

"This could be the worst flu season in modern history," said Allan Siefkin, chief medical officer of UC Davis Health System. "Seasonal flu — combined with novel H1N1 — makes the full impact of this particular flu season difficult to anticipate. We are taking every reasonable precaution as early as possible."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seasonal flu results in 220,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year and contributes to significant lost work hours and productivity. The best-known protection is the seasonal flu vaccine. A good flu protection for those are not vaccinated is a protective mask covering the nose and mouth.

Many employees came to the flu rally © 2009 UC Regents
Nearly 2,000 employees came to the rally for their seasonal flu vaccinations.

"The new policy, along with our many other flu-prevention efforts, are intended to keep our team healthy," said Siefkin. "We want to be here to care for our patients and to continue offering the high-quality services that our community relies on, from our level 1 trauma center and nationally designated cancer center to our children's hospital and other specialty programs."

The rally was the first of more than 50 free seasonal flu vaccination opportunities the health system is providing for staff and students. Masks will be provided to students and staff who are not vaccinated for the seasonal and H1N1 flu.

CEO Ann Madden Rice receiving her flu shot © 2009 UC Regents
On our cover
: Ann Madden Rice, chief executive officer of UC Davis Medical Center, was one of the first to get her seasonal flu vaccine at the rally. When addressing the crowd, she said, “Our campus is one of the safest places in the community when it comes to the risk of flu infection, and our new, aggressive flu-vaccine policy is designed to keep it that way.”

Seasonal flu occurs every year, typically in late fall, winter and early spring. The vaccine for this disease changes every year based on what is known about the types and strains of seasonal flu viruses that will be prevalent in a given year. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies providing protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body. The seasonal flu vaccine does not provide protection from H1N1 influenza, which is a new strain of infection.

“Reducing flu cases this year means that it will be important to get vaccinations for both types of flu, beginning with the vaccine that is currently available,” said Siefkin.

Detailed information on seasonal and H1N1 flu is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the County of Sacramento.