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LA County: Health Workers Must Get Flu Shot or Wear a Mask

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 11:50 AM EDT

As the flu season begins, many states have prepared multiple ways of improving vaccination rates by using different tactics. Although the majority of these states continue to remind people to get vaccinated, Los Angeles County has specifically mandated all health workers to get the flu vaccine. Now, in LA, if health workers choose not to get vaccinated, they must all wear protective masks when they interact with patients.

"Getting vaccinated is one of the most important steps that healthcare personnel can take to protect their patients and themselves from the flu," the Public Health director, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, said reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The mandate states, "The goal of the order is to lower the rates of transmission of influenza among healthcare personnel and the vulnerable populations that they serve."

Fielding issued the order that requires all healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing facilities and intermediate care centers who interact with patients directly to get the annual flu vaccine. According to the mandate, the influenza seasons starts on Nov. 1 and ends on March 31. Fielding hopes that this new order can close the gap and improve the country's vaccination rate. Based on the numbers provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 200,000 Americans get hospitalized due to the flu with an average of 24,000 deaths each year.

"This mandate offers our best chance to achieve [success]," Fielding explained.

This will be the first year in Los Angeles County history that the flu vaccine is required. The mandate will stay in effect until a county health officer chooses to rescind it. The order does not affect the healthcare workers in Long Beach or Pasadena since these workplaces belong to other health jurisdictions.

The flu vaccine is free to all healthcare workers within the state of California.

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