Mandating influenza vaccinations for health care workers: analysing opportunities for policy change using Kingdon’s agenda setting framework
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BACKGROUND: The consequences of annual influenza outbreaks are often underestimated by the general public. Influenza poses a serious public health threat around the world, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. Fortunately, vaccination can mitigate the negative effects of this common infectious disease. Although inoculating frontline health care workers (HCWs) helps minimize disease transmission, some HCWs continue to resist participating in voluntary immunization programs. A potential solution to this problem is government-mandated vaccination for HCWs; however, in practice, there are substantial barriers to the adoption of such policies. The purpose of this paper is to identify the likelihood of adopting a policy for mandatory immunization of HCWs in Ontario based on a historical review of barriers to the agenda setting process. METHODS: Documents from secondary data sources were analysed using Kingdon's agenda setting framework of three converging streams leading to windows of opportunity for possible policy adoption. RESULTS: The problems, politics, and policies streams of Kingdon's framework have converged and diverged repeatedly over an extended period (policy windows have opened and closed several times). In each instance, a technically feasible solution was available. However, despite the evidence supporting the value of HCW immunization, alignment of the three agenda setting streams occurred for very short periods of time, during which, opposition lobby groups reacted, making the proposed solution less politically acceptable. CONCLUSIONS: Prior to the adoption of any new policies, issues must reach a government's decision agenda. Based on Kingdon's agenda setting framework, this only occurs when there is alignment of the problems, politics, and policies streams. Understanding this process makes it easier to predict the likelihood of a policy being adopted, and ultimately implemented. Such learning may be applied to policy issues in other jurisdictions. In the case of mandatory influenza vaccinations for HCWs in Ontario, it seems highly unlikely that a new policy will be adopted until perception of the problem's importance is sufficient to overcome the political opposition to implementing a solution and thus, create a window of opportunity that is open long enough to support change.
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