Occupational Health Center
Be a Flu Fighter Today!
Since health care workers may care for or live with people at high risk for flu-related complications, it is especially important for them to get vaccinated annually. That is why HMH continuously promotes preventing the spread of the flu by providing vaccinations for our team members. We also play a big part in protecting our communities, which is why we are proud of our overwhelmingly high compliance rate in 2019-2020. Help us keep that number up by getting your flu shot today!
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
As we continue to fight COVID-19, we want everyone to remain as healthy as they can. Vaccinations against influenza are especially important as it can help you stay healthy and lower your risk of being mistaken for a COVID-19 patient, alleviating stress on testing and hospitals systems.
Vaccination for health care personnel has been recommended for years, and in New Jersey it is now state law that healthcare facilities implement a vaccination program to provide vaccinations for all of their employees. HMH has updated its Influenza Policy to be in compliance with these regulations.
We will now be considering medical exemptions as well as religious/strongly held belief exemptions for Active Employed Team Members and Active Non-Employed/Third Party Staff for the 2020-2021 flu season. If you are seeking an exemption, whether it be a medical or strongly held belief/religious exemption, please review the below information and submit any associated paperwork before November 2, 2020.
Get the Flu Vaccine From HMH!
Starting on October 5, Occupational Health will offer the seasonal flu vaccine to all team members, physicians, licensed independent practitioners and adult volunteers.
To become a Flu Fighter, check out the schedules in the tab above to see where and when you can get vaccinated.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Do your homework. HMH’s Influenza Policy requires team members to complete a yearly flu prevention education module, that has been assigned to you. Click here to access the MySuccess via TeamHMH.com.
- Bring your HMH-issued ID badge. You will need to get a marker that shows you received the flu shot. When you receive your vaccination, the marker will be applied to your badge and must be displayed there for the duration of flu season.
- Wear your mask and any other protective gear. Help protect our HMH team members administering flu vaccines to the network by following appropriate PPE, social distance and masking protocols.
- Smile! Our HMH team is working hard to deliver the vaccine to thousands of team members across the network under unique circumstances. Please help maintain a happy, safe and socially distanced environment when you go to receive your vaccination.
If you need to provide additional documentation to Occupational Health (for example, if you receive the flu vaccination from your physician), please send the documentation to the proper Occupational Health office via the fax numbers below:
- NORTH REGION FAX: 551-996-4622
- CENTRAL REGION/CORPORATE FAX: 732-318-3898
- SOUTH REGION FAX: 848-994-7420
If you need to submit an Influenza Vaccination Attestation Form, please click here to access the form, fill it out in its entirety and send via fax to the appropriate number above based on your location.
Become a Flu Fighter Today and Give the Flu the Old 1-2!!
HMH Influenza Policy Requirements and Exemptions
To be compliant with HMH’s Influenza Policy, members of the workforce and extended community (as described at the end of this section) must receive an annual influenza vaccination or possess an approved exemption. To be compliant with this requirement, members of the workforce and extended community must do one of the following (A or B) by December 17:
Receive the influenza vaccine, which will be provided free of charge through Occupational Health to team members, employed physicians, adult volunteers and Licensed Independent Practitioners (MD, DO, NP, PA) credentialed at HMH hospitals.
If vaccinated some-place other than Occupational Health, individuals must provide Occupational Health with proof of immunization. Proof of immunization must be verifiable and include the heading of the institution, name of the team member, date of vaccination, location of injection, provider signature, manufacturer, lot number and expiration date of vaccine.
Comply with the designated procedure for obtaining an approved exemption by November 2, as described in the Influenza Policy under EXEMPTIONS. HMH is now considering medical exemptions as well as religious/strongly held belief exemptions for the 2020-2021 flu season.
- To view the medical exemption request form, please click here.
- To view the religious/strongly held belief exemption form, please click here.
The exemption forms will be reviewed and acted upon by HMH Occupational Health, who will notify team members of the decision within 10 business days of receiving the required documentation. Team members who receive an approved exemption will be required to submit an Influenza Vaccination Attestation Form to Occupational Health and follow masking protocols during flu season.
To submit an Influenza Vaccination Attestation Form, please click here to access the form, fill it out in its entirety and send via fax to the appropriate fax number above based on your location.
About the HMH Policy
Our Influenza Policy as described above applies to any facility owned, leased, managed and/or operated by HMH, and all active employed team members and active non-employed staff of HMH as defined below:
- Active Employed Team Members – includes full-time, part-time, per diem or temporary team members, working on-site or remotely. This definition includes both clinical and non-clinical staff.
- Active Non-Employed/Third-Party Staff – generally defined as individuals who have been issued an HMH permanent or temporary ID. Individuals included are those authorized to work and/or observe work within and on behalf of HMH, whether paid or unpaid, but not employed by HMH. This definition includes both clinical and non-clinical workers, physicians, licensed independent practitioners, members of the professional staff (as defined by the MEC) , temporary workers, contracted and subcontracted workers, students, researchers, adult volunteers, clergy, representatives from pharmaceutical or other organizations (that would be identified through the Vendormate or other vendor management system) and agency personnel.
Influenza Policy FAQs
Why does HMH mandate the flu vaccine?
One of the fundamental tenets of health care is to care for patients while protecting ourselves from harm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu vaccine as the first and best way to protect against influenza. This recommendation is the same even during years when the vaccine composition (the viruses the vaccine protects against) remains unchanged from the previous season.
During the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimated the flu caused about 35.5 million illnesses, 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths. Approximately 49% of the U.S. population was vaccinated during this same season and this prevented an estimated 4.4 million illnesses, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths.
Requiring an annual flu vaccine demonstrates HMH’s commitment to protect the safety and health of our patients, many of whom already have weakened immune systems, as well as visitors, families and selves. Vaccination for health care personnel has been recommended for years, and in New Jersey it is now state law that healthcare facilities implement a vaccination program to provide vaccinations for all of their employees. At HMH, rates have continued to increase and we need your help to reach 100% compliance in 2020.
Who does this mandatory policy apply to?
The Influenza Policy applies to any facility owned, leased, managed and/or operated by HMH and all:
- Active employed team members of all status both clinical and non-clinical working on-site or remotely
- Active non-employed/third party staff defined as anyone issued an HMH permanent or temporary identification badge. Individuals included are those authorized to work and/or observe work within and on behalf of HMH, whether paid or unpaid, but not employed by HMH. This definition includes both clinical and non-clinical workers, physicians, licensed independent practitioners, members of the professional staff (as defined by the Medical Executive Committee), temporary workers, contracted and subcontracted workers, students, researchers, adult volunteers, clergy, representatives from pharmaceutical or other organizations (that would be identified through the Vendormate or other vendor management system) and agency personnel.
Why can’t HMH allow us to decline vaccination, continue with mandatory masking and enforce hand hygiene to prevent transmission of flu?
HMH recognizes that health care personnel have frequent contacts with high-risk patients in many settings, including the elevators and cafeteria. They can serve as a vehicle to transmit influenza even when they don’t have symptoms. Up to 25 percent of health care personnel with the flu may have minimal or no symptoms yet can still transmit infection. Studies have found that health care personnel with influenza-like symptoms work an average of 2.5 days while ill, and those infected with influenza can transmit the virus to others even before their symptoms begin.
Research shows that influenza vaccination of health care personnel decreases patient mortality by 40 to 50 percent, risk of nosocomial infection by 43 percent and absenteeism by 20 to 30 percent while limiting the risk of bringing illness acquired at work home to family members.
How can I track compliance?
Leaders and team members can track flu compliance, along with other mandatory OSHA requirements compliance, via a new web-based dashboard, PureOHS. The link to the dashboard can be found on TeamHMH.com/resources/
I’m not involved in direct patient care. Why do I have to be vaccinated?
Guidelines from the CDC and the State of New Jersey recommend the vaccine for all persons over the age of 6 months, especially health care workers. Everyone, including laboratory, clerical, dietary and housekeeping, security, facilities, maintenance and administrative personnel, might be exposed to the flu virus and could transmit it to others even though they are not directly involved in patient care. That is why both clinical and non-clinical team members working on-site or remotely are required to get the flu vaccine this year, unless an exemption is approved by Occupational Health.
I’m very healthy and never get the flu. Why should I get the flu vaccine?
Working in a health care environment increases your risk of exposure, which increases your chance of passing on the virus to others. You may become infected and experience mild symptoms that are barely noticeable, but still pass the virus on to patients, fellow team members or members of your family.
I’m very familiar with the symptoms of the flu, and I stay home when I am sick. So, there is very little chance that I would infect my co-workers or patients. Why should I get the vaccine?
The signs and symptoms of the flu may not appear for a day or two after you contract influenza, during which time you could unknowingly infect patients and fellow team members.
Can’t I just take antiviral drugs if I get the flu?
Taking precautions to prevent getting the flu with an annual immunization is the first place to start. You can always seek treatment for the flu, but in the meantime, you may have already passed on the virus to patients and fellow team members because viral shedding may occur up to two to three days prior to symptom initiation. Also, resistance to antiviral drugs can develop in circulating virus strains, therefore compromising the effectiveness of the drugs for people who need them the most—those at high risk for severe complications.
When will free flu vaccinations be available?
The flu surveillance teams/Occupational Health will provide free flu vaccinations to team members, employed physicians and adult volunteers starting on October 5. It takes about two weeks to develop protection after receiving the vaccine.
When do I need to be vaccinated by?
Team members and others at HMH (as defined by the Influenza Policy) must be vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination by December 3, 2020. If you are seeking an exemption, the deadline for completing and submitting the exemption form to Occupational Health is November 2.
How effective are flu vaccines, especially since virus strains keep changing?
The flu vaccine is the most effective method to prevent influenza. The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on a number of factors, including the accuracy of the match between vaccine strains and circulating strains and the age and health of the recipient. Influenza vaccine does not protect against other respiratory viral infections that occur during winter months. 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 do get the flu from a strain of the virus that wasn’t included in the vaccine, having the vaccine can make your illness milder.
If I get the seasonal flu vaccine in the 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 duration of the flu season.
Is it true that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed (as is the case with the shot) or weakened (as is the case with the nasal spray) so that they cannot cause the flu. Some people mistakenly confuse flu symptoms with the 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 serious problems. Some people may experience minor side effects. If these problems occur, they begin soon after the shot is given and usually last no more than one to two days. The most common side effects are:
- Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot is given
- Low-grade fever and aches
Team members who believe that they are experiencing adverse effects related to the vaccination should contact Occupational Health.
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 because they are more likely to have serious complications for themselves and their pregnancy if they get the flu. Once they get the flu shot, they will start producing antibodies that will help protect against the flu, and this protection can be passed to their unborn baby. According to the CDC, they can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester, while they are pregnant.
What if I get vaccinated on my own through my doctor’s office or another location other than an HMH facility?
That is acceptable. If you receive the vaccine elsewhere, please provide documentation to Occupational Health as soon as you receive the vaccine. Proof of immunization must be verifiable and include the heading of the institution, name of the team member, date of vaccination, location of injection, provider signature, manufacturer, lot number and expiration date of vaccine. Volunteers are required to present this proof to any HMH Volunteer Office.
Provide documentation to the appropriate Occupational Health office for your location via the fax number below:
- NORTH REGION FAX: 551-996-4622
- CENTRAL REGION/CORPORATE FAX: 732-318-3898
- SOUTH REGION FAX: 848-994-7420
Remember, the flu vaccination is provided free of charge by HMH to its team members. Click here to see when and where you you can get yours today!
What do I do if I get sick with the flu?
Do not come to work if you are sick. If you are sick with the flu or flu like symptoms (or any other similar communicable disease), follow the standard call out policy but also notify your Occupational Health office. If those symptoms start at work, notify your supervisor and plan to go home. Your leader will notify Infection Control. Common symptoms of the flu include fever, respiratory symptoms, cough, body aches and headache. If you are diagnosed with the flu or another communicable disease, you cannot work until cleared by Occupational Health, even if you have clearance from your personal health care provider. You cannot be cleared to return to work until you no longer have a fever for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever reducing medication).
What do I do if I am exposed to the flu at work or at home?
If exposed at work, contact your leader who will assist you with documenting the exposure details per your facility policy. Contact the Occupational Health office for an exposure assessment and follow up.
For non-work-related exposures, it is required that a team member diagnosed with/exposed to, a communicable disease must notify their department leader/supervisor and Occupational Health. Prior to returning to work, the team member is required to be evaluated by Occupational Health and deemed no longer communicable or infectious to receive clearance to return to work.
Call Occupational Health to discuss the exposure. Click here for contact info.
Where can I find the flu vaccination schedules?
Team members may access flu vaccination schedules by visiting the Occupational Health Center on TeamHMH.com or by clicking here.
What can I expect when I get my flu vaccination?
You will need to bring your HMH-issued photo ID badge with you. You will also be required to answer a few questions and sign consent to be vaccinated.
PLEASE NOTE: We ask for your patience and to remember to practice social distancing when you go to get your flu vaccine. The flu surveillance teams/Occupational Health are administering thousands of vaccines to team members throughout the network and they try to make the experience a positive one for each and every team member. Please act in a courteous manner towards the vaccinator and remember why our Influenza Policy was implemented: to help prevent the spread of seasonal flu to our patients, guests and each other.
What happens if I have an egg allergy? Can I still be vaccinated?
Please contact the Occupational Health office closest to your work location for a consultation appointment to discuss your options.
What should I do if I get a flu vaccination outside of HMH?
Team members need to provide Occupational Health with proof of vaccination promptly so that you can receive your marker and ensure compliance. Non-employed medical staff/licensed independent practitioners need to provide their primary medical staff office with proof of vaccination. Occupational Health and the medical staff offices uses this documentation to report flu vaccination compliance.
Proof of immunization from another source must be verifiable by HMH and include the heading of the institution, name of the team member, date of vaccination, location of injection, provider signature, manufacturer, lot number and expiration date of vaccine. Please see the Influenza Policy in PolicyStat for more details.
How do I get the flu marker for my photo ID badge that indicates I had my flu vaccine?
After you receive your vaccination from the flu surveillance team/Occupational Health, the administering nurse will put the flu marker on your badge. If you receive your vaccination outside a network facility or lose the marker, please contact the flu surveillance team on site or the Occupational Health office closest to your work location. Please remember to bring your HMH ID badge with you since the marker will be applied directly by the Occupational Health team.
Should I remove my flu marker from last year?
Yes, please remove your flu marker prior to presenting to be vaccinated this year.
What about an individual who has medical reasons for declining vaccination?
An exception to the Influenza Policy may be requested for certain medical reasons, as defined by the most current recommendations of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
I received a strongly held belief/religious exemption last year. Is that still an option?
CDC guidelines strongly recommend all health care workers receive the flu vaccine and New Jersey law mandates all health care workers receive the flu vaccine. In order to best protect our patients, communities and team members, and comply with the NJ law, HMH has made receiving a flu vaccination a requirement of employment. However, you may still apply for a medical or religious/strongly held belief exemption. Occupational Health will review any exemption request forms and you will be notified of the decision within ten (10) days. Exemption forms must be submitted by November 2.
What documentation do I need to provide to request an exemption?
The request form for an exemption must be completed and submitted to Occupational Health by November 2.
How will I be notified if my exemption request is approved?
Team members requesting an exemption will be notified of the decision by Occupational Health within ten (10) days of receiving all required documentation.
I received an exemption last year. Do I have to submit the paperwork again this year?
It depends on the type of exemption you are seeking.
All personnel who are pursuing a medical exemption must submit a new request each year by the designated deadline. Because the composition and availability of flu vaccines changes from year to year, certain allergies or concerns may no longer be relevant.
If you were granted a religious/strongly held belief exemption in 2019, you do not need to reapply for an exemption this year. Simply visit your local Occupational Health office to get your new gray 2020 badge marker.
If my exemption is approved, will I still be able to work?
If an exemption is granted, the individual will sign a document attesting that he/she will always wear a mask. Click here to access the Influenza Vaccination Attestation Form, fill it out in its entirety and send via fax to the appropriate fax number (based on your location) listed at the top of the page.
If/When the COVID-19 mandatory mask requirement is lifted, individuals with an influenza vaccination exemption must always continue to wear masks except when in the break room or in the cafeteria during the influenza season. Influenza season is usually from October 1st through March 31st unless, based on the influenza activity, Executive Leadership/VP Infection Prevention & Control initiates early or extends the defined end date of the flu season.
Where can I get more information about the flu vaccine?
You can find more information on the flu vaccine at www.cdc.gov/flu.
Where can I get more information about HMH’s Influenza Policy?
Please see the Influenza Policy in PolicyStat for more details.