Proposal: Healthcare Workers Should Get Flu Vaccine
I recently received an article from a Midwestern hospital whose experience with H1N1 influenza in spring 2009 motivated them to create a pandemic plan that can be used for any outbreak. In their article, the nurses pointed out employees at this facility in spring 2009 were getting sick left and right from the flu, so any solid pandemic plan had to address the real possibility of a decreased workforce. This facility also had to address the fact some direct healthcare providers absolutely refused to get immunized.
As things always happen coincidentally in pairs, right after editing this article I received a press release about a recently published policy paper calling for all healthcare workers to be required to get a flu shot - or else lose their jobs.
The paper published Aug. 31 in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology by representatives of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology and endorsed by the Infectious Disease Society of America stated ethically healthcare workers are obliged to get vaccinated against the flu.
The authors said agreeing to an annual flu shot should be a condition of initial and continued employment in healthcare facilities. Exceptions should be made only for medical reasons.
We don't have to quote statistics to know many healthcare workers oppose this requirement. The authors of this paper said making vaccination voluntary isn't working - not enough healthcare workers are getting immunized. They quote studies that show the spread of flu is decreased and there are fewer deaths in patients due to flu complications when everyone in a facility gets vaccinated.
Whether healthcare providers agree or not, it may soon be an issue they can't avoid or dispute. The NY state department of health is working on a permanent regulation requiring all healthcare workers to get flu shots. (By the way, when this regulation was first proposed in 2009 it was opposed by the NY State Nurses Association which supports voluntary immunization, but is against making it mandatory.)
One thing is certain, this is not the last we have heard about this issue. So how do you weigh in on mandatory flu vaccination?