Flu Vaccination/Masking Mandate

November 2013


Kaiser provided the following answers to employee frequently asked questions.

1. Why is Kaiser Permanente mandating masks for those not vaccinated?

This mandate is not from Kaiser Permanente. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has mandated that all health care workers in the county who have not had a flu vaccination wear a mask in order to protect themselves, patients, visitors, and co-workers. The use of a mask if you are not vaccinated is a not a choice – it is required.

2. What facilities does the mandate apply to?

This new requirement affects our hospitals and medical office buildings in the service areas of Baldwin Park, Downey, Los Angeles, Panorama City, South Bay, West Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, and the Indian Hill medical office building.   All employees (paid or unpaid), contract workers, students, volunteers, and physicians at these facilities who have not received a flu vaccination will be required to wear a mask in all patient areas as a condition of employment.

3. Which types of employees are affected by the mandate?

The SCAL Influenza Vaccination policy defines a health care worker as one who works at or is assigned to a medical center or medical office building; and/or has duties that require a regular presence at a medical center or medical office building (50 percent or more of work time); and/or has direct contact with patients and/or patient specimens.

4. If I choose not to be vaccinated, when do I have to begin wearing a mask and how long do I need to wear it?

The mask requirement will be in place for the duration of each influenza season which the LA County Department of Public Health has defined as November 1 to March 31 of the following year.

5. If I choose not to be vaccinated will I need to sign a flu declination form this year?

Yes, if you choose not to be vaccinated for flu you will need to sign and return a declination form to Employee Health Services. Declination forms are available from Employee Health Services starting January 2014. Even before the declination forms are available, employees working in Los Angeles County mandated facilities are required to wear a mask as a condition of continued employment, and strongly encouraged to do so in all other Kaiser Permanente facilities while you are in patient care areas during the flu season.

6. How will we know who has been vaccinated?

Employees, physicians, students, volunteers, and contract workers who have been vaccinated will receive a tamper-proof yellow “Thrive” sticker to be worn on their ID badge. These individuals are not required to wear a mask, except when indicated by a patient's condition. Standard precautions such as hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette apply regardless of whether an employee is vaccinated or wearing a mask.

7. Will I get a sticker if I turn in my declination form?

No, the stickers are used to identify individuals who have received the flu vaccine and are not required to wear a mask during the flu season. Signing a declination form does not exempt you from the mask requirement.

8. Is a mask required if I work in a non-mandated facility?

All employees, regardless of where they work, are strongly encouraged to do all they can to protect their health and the health of their patients and family members. All employees are strongly encouraged to wear a mask at all other Kaiser Permanente facilities during the entire flu season if they have not been vaccinated.

9. Where can I get a mask and what type of mask is required?

The masks are available in departments, in stations, and on the units. If you cannot access one, speak to your manager. Kaiser Permanente will supply appropriate masks in all patient care areas. Surgical masks are needed in most situations; however N95 masks are still required during delivery of high-risk procedures in order to comply with the CAL/OSHA Airborne Transmissible Diseases Standard. If you are unsure of which mask to wear, please ask your manager

10. Where are masks required for those not vaccinated?

Individuals in mandated facilities without a sticker on their badges are required to wear a surgical mask in all patient care areas. The definition applied to patient care or clinic areas includes the physical or recognized borders of hospital and clinic areas where patients are present, evaluated, or treated; including waiting rooms, reception/waiting areas, and patient care hallways. The mandate exempts cafeterias, non-patient restrooms, break-rooms, lounges, meeting rooms, lab testing areas, areas where there is no member contact, and administrative suites/offices.

11. When should masks be changed?

Masks should be changed when they become moist from breathing or damaged. Masks should be changed between Isolation Precaution patients. Masks should be replaced after removal from the face. Once removed from the face, masks will not be reused, hang around the neck, on top of the head or in a pocket. The frequency with which masks may need to be changed will vary based on how much moisture is generated from your breathing. A mask must not be worn longer than four hours.

12. What if I work at facilities in both mandated and non-mandated counties?

You are required to wear a mask in patient care areas in our mandated facilities if you have not had a flu shot. If you are working in a non-mandated facilities, all employees are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated to protect the health of themselves, family members, and our patients – regardless of where you work. If you do not get vaccinated, it is strongly encouraged that you wear a mask.

13. I received my flu vaccination at a non-Kaiser Permanente location. How do I get a sticker?

If you receive a vaccination at a location outside of KP or by an individual who does not have access to the secured sticker, you must report to Employee Health Services with written proof of vaccination to get a sticker. Once the vaccination has been verified, an Employee Health Services representative will apply a sticker.

14. What if I have a medical contraindication to getting an influenza vaccination?

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requires all non-vaccinated health care providers in mandated facilities within the county to wear a mask, even if you have a medical reason for not being vaccinated. However, recent studies have shown that many people with egg allergies now can be safely vaccinated, so if you have not been vaccinated in the past because of an egg allergy, you should check with your physician.

15. What is KP’s compliance policy?

In counties where flu vaccinations have been mandated, wearing a mask if you have not been vaccinated is a condition of continued employment or association with Kaiser Permanente. In other locations, all employees are strongly encouraged to wear a mask if they have not been immunized.

16. What are the requirements for hand hygiene?

The hand hygiene requirements during flu season are the same standard precautions requirements and should follow the “5 Moments” for hand hygiene, e.g. before patient contact, before contact with the patient's environment, after patient contact, after contact with the patient's environment and after exposure to blood or body fluids.