Keeping the federal workforce healthy is a top priority for the President. Flu season
is here and we know flu can be very serious; even healthy people can get and spread
this infection. There are many actions each of us can take to reduce the spread
of flu viruses. The most important of these is getting an annual flu vaccine. We
know that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against influenza and its
complications. In addition, there are everyday preventive actions including washing
our hands and staying home if we are sick that can reduce the spread of germs.
As the agencies responsible for federal workforce polices and for protecting the
health of all Americans, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS) are again coordinating an effort to reduce the
spread of flu viruses in our workplaces and communities.
Influenza vaccine is free to federal employees in federal health clinics across
the country. To further protect our entire workforce, we are asking federal departments
and agencies to consider providing flu vaccine to their contractors who work in
close proximity to federal staff. Many of you already do this. HHS's policy for
purchasing vaccine for contractors is attached. For further information, please
contact the HHS Office of the General Counsel at (202) 690-7741
As we enter the 2011-2012 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends that all persons 6 months of age and older, with some exceptions, get
their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible. It is no longer necessary to determine
if someone is in a high risk group for flu to receive the flu vaccine, because virtually
everyone can benefit.
In addition to helping get our employees vaccinated, we also want to help spread
the word to the general public that getting vaccinated against the flu is easy to
do. It is an effective way to implement the vision of the National Prevention Strategy
for a prevention-orientated society where all sectors recognize the value of health
for individuals, families, and societies and work together to achieve better health
for all Americans.
Our consumer website- www.flu.gov- features great
flu prevention tips, public service announcements, posters, and information syndicated
from various HHS websites. We have also re-launched our flu vaccine finder tool
on flu.gov for members of the public to find places
offering flu vaccination in their communities. We encourage you all to visit
flu.gov for tools, ideas, and resources your employees and their families
can use. This site will be updated throughout the year.
Attachment-Vaccination of Government Contractors by Federal Occupational Health
HHS has made broad efforts in recent years to increase vaccine coverage against
influenza within HHS components. FOH has administered seasonal influenza vaccines
to HHS employees for many years. As discussed in greater detail below, my Office
has advised that HHS agencies have the legal authority to offer influenza vaccines
to HHS agency contractors if certain policy conclusions are reached by the agencies.
Specifically, we advised that HHS agencies could offer influenza vaccines to agency
contractors (in addition to agency employees) if the agencies determine that it
is a "necessary expense" to purchase influenza vaccines for both agency employees
and contractors. It is a well-settled rule of statutory construction that where
an appropriation is made for a particular object, by implication it confers
authority to incur expenses which are necessary or proper or incident to the proper
execution of the object, unless there is another appropriation which makes more
specific provision for such expenditures, or unless they are prohibited by law,
or unless it is manifestly evident from various precedent appropriation acts that
Congress has specifically legislated for certain expenses of the government creating
the implication that such expenditures should not be incurred except by its express
authority. 6 Comp. Gen. 619, 621 (1927).
Given the infectious nature of the influenza virus and the negative workforce and
other consequences associated with contracting the virus, agencies within HHS have
concluded that providing influenza vaccines to contractors is justified under the
necessary expense doctrine if the contractors are co-located with or have substantial
physical proximity to agency employees. This conclusion is supported by a policy
position that such vaccination is justified in order to maintain the health of agency
employees and to maximize the productivity of agency operations.
Trivalent seasonal influenza vaccines are covered under the National Vaccine Injury
Compensation Program (VICP). See
http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/. The VICP is a no-fault alternative
to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims that provides
compensation to eligible people found to be injured by covered vaccines. Because
seasonal influenza vaccines are covered under the VICP, persons with vaccine injury
claims must first exhaust their remedies within the VICP before pursuing civil actions
against vaccine administrators or manufacturers. In the event that federal personnel
(e.g., nurses employed by the FOH) were sued for alleged negligence in relation
to vaccine injury, such employees would be immune from suit in an individual capacity
under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 V.S.C. §§ 1346(b),2671-2680.