Minnesota nursing homes are lagging behind hospitals in a state program designed to boost flu vaccination rates among health workers, officials said Wednesday.
Last year, 197 health facilities took part in the program, known as FluSafe, and 42 succeeded in vaccinating at least 90 percent of their employees, said a report by the Minnesota Department of Health.
So far, nearly 75 percent of Minnesota hospitals have joined the voluntary program since it started in 2010, but only about 25 percent of the state's nursing homes have done so, officials acknowledged.
"We are behind in terms of percent participating," said Patti Cullen, president and CEO of CareProviders of Minnesota, which represents nursing homes. But said she was optimistic that the numbers would continue to climb. "I think it's a moral imperative," she said.
The goal is to encourage health workers to get flu shots in order to protect their patients, said Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota's health commissioner.
"That's really critically important for health care providers ... particularly because they interact with folks who are already ill," he said. "It's an ethical issue for health care providers to get vaccinated."
Cullen said that while many employees do get flu shots, nursing homes have been slow to embrace the state's electronic tracking system, which uses a computer database.
Last year, 87 hospitals and 57 nursing homes in Minnesota reported employee vaccine rates of 70 percent or higher. The list can be found at www.startribune.com/a854.