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Special Article
January 12, 2004

Is Signed Consent for Influenza or Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccination Required?

Author Affiliations

From Quality Partners of Rhode Island (Mss Kissam and Patry and Dr Gifford) and the Division of Geriatrics, Brown University, Providence, RI (Dr Gifford), and the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality, Oklahoma City (Dr Bratzler). The authors have no relevant financial interest in this article.

Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(1):13-16. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.1.13

Each year, thousands of preventable deaths and hospitalizations result from complications of influenza and pneumococcal disease, mostly in elderly persons, despite the availability of vaccines. Obtaining signed consent prior to administering the vaccines represents an obstacle to achieving the Healthy People 2010 goals for vaccinating individuals against influenza and pneumococcal disease. Signed consent is neither legally mandated nor a guarantee that the patient (or proxy) has given informed consent. Nonetheless, many health care providers and institutions currently require signed consent before administering these vaccines. Rather, health care providers should use the Vaccine Information Sheets developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to inform patients about the risks and benefits associated with these vaccines. Requiring signed consent before administering these low-risk, high-benefit vaccines is inconsistent with the current practice of not requiring signed consent before prescribing other common treatments, eg, antibiotic treatment, whose risk levels are the same or higher.