The American Nurses Association (ANA) is calling for all individuals, including registered nurses (RNs), to be immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases, with the only exemptions being for medical or religious reasons.
ANA’s new position on immunization aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a CDC panel of medical and public health experts that advises vaccine use. ANA’s re-examination of its position was prompted partly by outbreaks of measles cases this year that affected unvaccinated adults and children.
“ANA’s new position aligns registered nurses with the best current evidence on immunization safety and preventing diseases such as measles,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “A critical component of a nurse’s job is to educate patients and their family members about the effectiveness of immunization as a safe method of disease prevention to protect not only individuals, but also the public health.”
During the first seven months of 2015, the CDC said 183 people from more than 20 states were reported to have measles, with five outbreaks resulting in the majority of those cases. In 2000, the United States had declared that measles was eliminated from the country as a result of an effective measles vaccine and a strong vaccination program for children.
Health care personnel who request exemption for religious beliefs or medical contraindications – a condition or factor that serves as a reason to withhold an immunization due to the harm it would cause – should provide documentation from “the appropriate authority” supporting the request. Individuals who are granted exemption “may be required to adopt measures or practices in the workplace to reduce the chance of disease transmission” to patients and others, the new policy says.
ANA’s position on immunization for health care personnel aligns with the newly revised Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, which says RNs have an ethical responsibility to “model the same health maintenance and health promotion measures that they teach and research,” including immunization.
The CDC recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month to emphasize the importance of immunization across the lifespan. The week of Aug. 16-22 is focused on adult immunization and the following week (Aug. 23-29) on infant and child immunization.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the only full-service professional organization representing the interests of the nation’s 3.4 million registered nurses through its constituent and state nurses associations and its organizational affiliates. ANA advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the rights of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Congress and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.