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Most counties in California mandate annually that licensed health care facilities require their health care workers to provide evidence of influenza vaccination during the influenza “season.” The flu season typically runs between September and May but can be defined differently per county. Health care workers are individuals who have direct patient contact or who work in patient care areas. They can be paid or unpaid.
Dental practices and therefore dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants are subject to the flu vaccination mandate in some counties. At the time of this writing, 11 counties had a flu vaccination order for 2020-21 that includes dental practices: Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Placer, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Sonoma, Tehama and Yolo counties.
Some counties require that health care workers receive their vaccination on or before a specific date each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people be vaccinated by the end of October.
The vaccination orders, which are usually issued by a county public health officer, may include other requirements; for example, a health care worker may be able to decline to receive a flu vaccination but would need to provide a signed declination.
Flu vaccination can ‘reduce strain on healthcare systems’ during current pandemic
The CDC states that getting a flu vaccine is “more important than ever” during 2020-21 “to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” such as by lowering the number of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths and conserving limited and critical medical resources to care for COVID-19-positive individuals.
Some county orders specifically reference COVID-19. The Contra Costa order states that the current flu season “will present additional challenges, with many experts concerned about a ‘double surge’ of both flu and SARS-CoV-2 viruses simultaneously. Therefore, this year as we approach flu season, it is even more important to vaccinate our health care workers against flu.”
Counties that do not currently have a mandatory vaccination order for health care workers or do have an order that doesn’t include dental practices and dental care providers can issue a new or revised order at any time. Dental practice owners are encouraged to visit their county website periodically for influenza guidance for providers. Many county websites provide this information under “immunizations,” “disease prevention” or a similar tab.
See a list of all current county orders.