A Minnesota Department of Health program, the FluSafe program, honored two area facilities in its results released this week. Ecumen Pathstone Living received a blue ribbon, signifying a 90 percent rate of vaccinations among staff.

Nursing homes recognized for high vax rates

MANKATO — Seniors are encouraged every year to get vaccinated ahead of influenza season.

Along with children, they’re the most vulnerable population to the illness.

So it stands to reason that people who care for seniors should get protected against the flu, too.

A Minnesota Department of Health program aims to reward nursing homes with high staff vaccination rates.The FluSafe program honored two area facilities in its results released this week.

Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato and the Benedictine Living Community in St. Peter earned blue and red ribbons, signifying more than 90 and 80 percent rates of vaccinations among staff.

Jennifer Pfeffer, executive director of Ecumen, said getting vaccinated is highly encouraged among staff. The shots are even offered for free on site.

“We care for very sick and vulnerable people, so we want to make sure they don’t become sick,” she said. “We also want our staff healthy as well because we rely on them.”

She said Marta Arch, Ecumen’s education coordinator, is the one who rallies the staff when it’s time to get vaccinated.

At the St. Peter nursing home and assisted-living facility, an emphasis on vaccines has helped the facility remain flu free in recent years, said Administrator Linda Nelsen, adding that there seems to be a direct correlation.

“We’ve been very successful in promoting the flu vaccines and not having any outbreaks of flu in the building,” she said. “That’s our goal every year is not having a flu outbreak.”

In past FluSafe ratings, Benedictine Living Community earned blue ribbons for 90-plus rates of staff vaccinations. Their rate this year fell just short at 88 percent, leading to the red ribbon.

Nelsen said just a couple of more staff getting vaccinated would push the rate above 90 percent, and that’ll be the goal this year.

“We would love to be over 90 percent and get the blue ribbon. That’s our goal,” she said. “It’s to keep our associates healthy, but also our residents.”

A total of 153 hospitals and nursing homes participated in FluSafe this year with 63 reaching the 90 percent mark. Another 47 earned the red ribbons for greater than 80 percent rates of vaccinations.

The initiative goes along with goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to have 90 percent of health care workers vaccinated by 2020. To be at that mark well ahead of schedule feels good, Pfeffer said.

“We were very proud of that fact,” she said.