Vaccines in occupational health setting

As an occupational health nurse, vaccine administration and disease prevention are a top priority. Vaccines should be offered to employees based upon their occupational risk in the workplace environment.

For example, health care workers have different vaccine recommendations than employees working with sanitation or wastewater. Common vaccines offered to employees in an occupational health setting are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (TDAP), measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella, influenza and rabies.

Based upon occupational exposure in the workplace setting, vaccines can be offered by the company to their employees as a part of the pre-employment process. The company must have an exposure control plan, including universal precautions, and control measures, including personal protective equipment and vaccinations.

The exposure control plan should be specific to the occupational risk of employees. Some examples of employees with occupational exposure risk include, but are not limited to, health care workers, emergency first-aid personnel, correctional officers and food service workers.

The company must be informed that the vaccination process is offered at no cost to the worker if there is an occupational exposure. The vaccination should be offered to the employee within 10 days of initial job placement where there is occupational exposure.

Another option for the company would be antibody testing at the time of a pre-employment exam and if the employee has a positive immune response the vaccine would not be indicated. If antibody testing is performed and the employee is nonimmune, the employee would then be offered the vaccination.

Immunizations also might be administered as a part of the post-exposure process in the event of a direct blood exposure such as a needle stick injury. Prior to any vaccine administration the direct blood exposure would be evaluated and determined to be an exposure by a medical provider. Immunizations would be ordered based upon medical treating provider’s recommendations.

An occupational health nurse is a great resource for employees and employers with questions or concerns related to vaccines. The occupational health nurse can share with employees what is known and unknown about the risks and benefits of each vaccine.

The specific vaccine CDC vaccine information sheet “VIS” will be provided with each vaccine administration. It is another resource for employees if questions or concerns should arise. Employees do have the option to decline the vaccine recommended, and an occupational health nurse is able to assist with the proper documentation to ensure compliance with OSHA.