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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Proposal: Healthcare Workers Should Get Flu Vaccine

Published September 2, 2010 2:54 PM by Gail Guterl
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?



Flu vaccinations are ineffective and  cause  equal , or more  effects than  if you get the flu...what is needed is more education about

hygiene and about taking care your  immune  system..there is an

economic  incentive to push for mandatory vaccinations.

Franklin, Education - Counselor, Abbott Middle School November 30, 2011 8:05 AM
Waukegan IL

It is very disappointing to see so many comments about "me"  Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers transmit influenza to patients.  There is a duty and obligation to care in healthcare.  Objective science shows that voluntary programs do not work sufficiently well to protect our patients.  There are inherent risks in any endeavor.  An individual’s legitimate choice is to review the risks of working in the healthcare field (including influenza vaccination) or choosing not to work in healthcare.  Making a choice to work in this field in a manner that places patients at risk is not legitimate

Jon, Infection Control - Director of Operations June 2, 2011 2:14 PM
Lansing MI

I am appalled at the blatant abuse of a healthcare worker's informed consent rights that employer mandated and coerced vaccination under duress of employment or financial sanctions presents.  

The Neuremburg trials clearly defined the Utilitarian theory as being a pseudo-theory and invalid for usurping an individual's rights to determine what medical procedures to receive.  This same pseudo-theory has been utilized by the US to force sterilization on mentally handicapped individuals, which was later found to be a gross violation of human rights.  

Influenza vaccines are inadequately tested and mandating it amounts to forced human experimentation.  It is obscene to add to the issue the legal protection that vaccine manufacturers receive granting them immunity from any harm thier products may inflict.  If their stuff is a safe and effective as claimed, why would they ever need legal protection?

Last year's H1N1 "pandemic" appeared to be the result of flawed statistical reporting.  Initially my facility was instructed to test for H1N1 in any patient presenting with fever and URI symptoms.  A short time later this testing was suspended by the CDC due to "a high rate of 'false negative' test results".  We were then instructed to report all URI illnesses that are not obviously bacterial and accompanied by fever as an H1N1 infection.  This included such illnesses as rhinovirus infections and viral pharyngitis.

There is something very fishy about the push to vaccinate against influenza.  

Karen, Emergency Dept - RN December 1, 2010 12:15 PM

I am insulted that this year I am either to get the flu shot or wear a mask. I say look at my record of illness. I have been at the same hospital for 31 years and have rarely called in sick. I can't remember the last time I had the flu. Plus, I work in a day surgery area. Are people sick there? NO, or they would not be having surgery. So my exposure is minimal and my health record speaks for itself! Ridiculous.....yes I work in a hospital but this natural means are the best. Basically forced vaccine.what's next

Nancy , RN November 20, 2010 7:41 PM


JUDE, HOME CARE - RN September 22, 2010 2:06 PM

Whoa... maybe the hospital administrators should hand out free condoms or perhaps the hospitals should begin enforcing what brand of orthopedic implants can be implanted into older nurses that need knee or hip replacements ?

Come on - what country is this? What gives any employer the right to mandate that an employee receive an injection in lieu of the employee's job ?

As the saying goes:

My body my choice ...

joe September 21, 2010 4:43 PM
Pittsburgh PA

Vaccinations should not be mandatory..

This September the court awards 1.5 million plus $500,000 per year to pay for young girl's care that vaccinations resulted in her autism, also an 18 year case was won to a boy who develped seizures and severe retardation after receiving his 18 month vaccinations.

The first case states that the girl had a underlying neurological problem that the vaccines triggered.  There are neurotoxins in these vaccines and as adults, we will not see the bad effects until years later, and then they will never be able to say the vaccines caused it.  We know as children, they are supposed to be healthy and that is why we catch onto it more quickly.

Shanna, Nursing - LPN September 20, 2010 8:56 PM
Cincinnati OH

The choice given to me is to be vaccinated or wear a mask - sounds like coercion to me.  I have worked in health care for 13 years.  I will most likely be leaving my profession this year because there is no way on God's green earth will I ever get a vaccination nor wear a mask 12 hrs a day 6 months out of the year. I have heard of way too many nurses who cried and were emotionally distraught after being strong-armed into being vaccinated, or having awful reactions to the vaccine causing them to be off work for extended periods of time thus causing a financial burden for them and their family.  My decision, which is supported by my family, will also cause a financial burden to my family, however, my stance on the matter is something that I strongly believe in.  

In a time of a nursing shortage, what will happen if more health care workers leave because of mandatory vaccinations?

Nurses are seen as very trusted individuals in the public eye, therefor, enforce mandatory vaccines and the public thinks if their getting them then it must be okay.  What the public doesn't realize is, is that a large portion of those nurses are being forced/coerced, however you want to put it, into being vaccinated.

Stand for something or fall for anything...vow never to be sheeple.  

Kelly, CNM September 20, 2010 1:24 AM

I think flu shots for health care workers should be voluntary.

Some health care workers may be afraid of Guillian-Barre syndrome, even though its supposedly rare.

A few years ago on the evening news there was a report about a gene that was discovered that locks up the flu.  Some people simply don't get sick with it.

Some people are allergic to eggs.  I know this is a contraindication for the flu shot.

Joan, med surg September 19, 2010 2:39 PM
New York NY

I think it is unfair to demand that we get this vaccine,I have been working as a nurse for 15yrs and have had the flu 1 time in my career. Yes we attempt to immunize all patients that have not had a flu vaccine, but we ASK them if they want it, we don't make them take it without their permission. Now if you want it to be manadotroy, then the doors to the hospital should be closed to all visitors and family membes that are not previously vaccinated prior to coming to sit or visit with family members. What good is is to vaccinate the staf and patient if others come and go that are not vaccinated? does that not defeat the purpose? Also, can you guarantee that the flu vaccine give each yr is the ONE that is needed for the type of flu that might be going around?? So many questions and no correct answers. I still have the right to decide what I want injected into my body at the time.

Karen Southard, Med/Surg - Charge Nurse, HCMH September 11, 2010 1:16 PM
Elkin NC

I do not think it is unreasonanle to demand that hospital staff be

immunized against tghe flu.  For 26yrs.  I worked in a system where mandatory immunization was required.  It didn't harm a


Flu epidemics can paralyze the staffiing of a hospital.  Have any of those so opposed ever been responsible for staffing their units,  let lone entire areas of an institution?

This is not a popular with many of you, or most of you.  I can understand you not wanting to be told what to do.  Try and look at the senario from admins view point.

Vincent L., ER-Trauma - RN MSN, Retired September 10, 2010 10:52 PM
Plaiinfield NJ

To make the flu vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers would be, not only rediculous, but also a huge violation of our rights. I think it's much more logical to think that visitors, vendors, etc. would be more likely to be the ones spreading the flu around than the nurses who are trained in infection control and wash their hands so often they bleed. A previous post made a good point in saying that just because they haven't been in a car accident doesn't mean that they wont wear a seatbelt. True, but the flip side of that is: Just because there are crazy people in this world that like to shoot up schools, daycares, airplanes-I'm not going to keep my children locked up. And, just because there are people that don't practice effective infection control doesn't mean that I'm going to inject myself or my children with a foreign substance when we all have perfectly healthy immune systems and know how to practice infection control.

Nicole, Nursing - RN September 9, 2010 3:28 PM
Indianapolis IN

I have been considering returning to nursing, but if FLU vaccine becomes mandatory I will not return.

It is insulting , unprofessional and unscientific when health organizations that know better, use coercion and repeatedly

insist that health care professionals that do NOT receive annual Flu vaccination,  are being unethical, a danger to their patients

and do so because they suffer from

" common fears and misconceptions about the influenza virus and the vaccine" and that they need to be properly "educated".

There is a very good reason so many health care professionals

make educated choices about their health care and all professionals know that medical choices are based on benefit verses risk and efficacy.

The Cochrane Collaboration, have published several systematic reviews of existing studies on the efficacy of influenza vaccines.

Weighing the data, they conclude that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that flu vaccines reduce infection rates or mortality, even in the elderly and in health care workers who work with the elderly.

There is ZERO proof that vaccines work better than masks, hand-washing, gloves, distancing, so one really has to wonder where this policy comes from  and why.

To mandate that any healthy person  should be taking this vaccine is outrageous, especially when there are alternatives , the annual

efficacy is unknown and the CDC has never come up with any accurate way to even know what the true mortality and morbidity on influenza is.

The AAP has just stated publically:

" Mandatory influenza immunization for all health care personnel is "ethically justified, necessary and long overdue to ensure patient safety," according to the statement. The influenza vaccine is safe, effective, and cost-effective, so health care organizations must work to assuage common fears and misconceptions about the influenza virus and the vaccine."

I suggest they start paying more attention to science and less to lobbyists and to define very specifically the definition of "safe and effective" " , " ensure patient safety," "ethically justified" and " long overdue".

Marcy, OB - RN September 8, 2010 11:42 PM

Medical personnel should not be mandated to get these yearly shots. If youth in our schools have the right not to get vaccinated, then we have the right to choose whether to get this yearly shot.  We know that sometimes the CDC guesses correctly, but sometimes they do not and people still get sick despite receiving the shot.  Why should we be mandateed to receove a shot that is not clearly the organism version that is a danger?

Jan Kilby, Education - RN Educator, Technical College September 8, 2010 7:27 PM
Murrells Inlet SC

I believe that mandatory requirements are out of line. While we know for a fact that vaccinations contribute to Guillian Barre we do not know for sure that it is health care workers spreading the flu to patients and many other illnesses can cause absenteeism. This requirement may have no effect on the incidence of flu in patients. Furthermore, I have known of places where it is required of workers and patients and people still get the flu because the vaccine is based on a "best guess" for which viruses are likely to become a problem. The H1N1 episode is clear evidence of why a flu shot does not guarantee protection against pandemics. Last but not least I too have noticed my friends, family, and coworkers becoming ill for months after a flu shot despite the claims by the CDC that this does not happen.

Leslie , Long Term Care - RN September 8, 2010 6:56 PM
Norfolk NE

I think vaccinations should not be mandated for health care workers. I think if patients and/or families, or even the CDC is concerned about getting the flu from anybody, THEY should be the one to get vaccinated. I do believe in vaccinations (for life time protection), but not a yearly shot. Someone mentioned the Hep-vaccine. I did get it, but I don't have to get it every year.  I believe our body has a much better immune system then anybody else out there.

Marianna, Med-surg - RN, Hospital September 8, 2010 5:43 PM
Port Jefferson NY

Look at the evidence nurses! Vaccinations do not cause autism. That theory has been found to be false. GBS has not been implicated as caused by the current flu vaccines. The chance of someone having serious complications from the flu is greater than the chance of someone getting GBS after receiving a flu shot. As far as never having had the flu even though exposed over all those years, I can also say that in the years I did not wear a seat-belt, I never had a serious injury so I will still not wear one now; or my child never died from sleeping in a wide-slatted crib so I will use my 40 year old crib for my grandchild. Bad logic. I never had the flu over the years either, except once, when I was 6 months pregnant and that increases my child's possibility of having schizophrenia. Do we not all have to be offered a hep B vaccine? I am mixed about whether to have it mandatory or not, but it should be offered for free for all health care providers currently working with the public including nurses. On the other hand, it is a public health issue and those dealing with the public need to be protected for themselves and for those they care for. I believe businesses can use it as a requirement of employment as long as the employees know that before working for the company. I do not want the government getting into it though unless the incident reaches pandemic proportions. Then the government has to protect its citizens.

Judy, Faith community - Parish Nurse, church community September 8, 2010 11:58 AM

Just as patients have the right to choose as to whether or not they receive a vaccine the staff have that right also.  For a state or organization to require a vaccine or lose your job is a slippery slope that we do not need to step on.  As healthcare professionals, if the government cannot convince us that it is something we should do they should not attempt to force us.  No vaccine is 100% safe and the decision as to whether a person accepts those risks is not something that anyone can make for another person.

Cody Cuppes, LTC - Director of Nursing September 8, 2010 11:20 AM
Corsicana TX

I agree, we need to build our immune systems, not rely on untested vaccinations.  Look at the rise in Guillain Barre disease after the last swine flu vaccine fiasco.  Also the rise in autism could be directly related to vaccinations.

Margy September 6, 2010 4:57 PM

I disagree with mandatory influenza vaccination. I have worked in health care facilities in NY and had never accepted one even though they were given free of charge. I choose not to get one because I have seen over the years too many of my coworkers come down with various severity symptoms after receiving one. In all those years I have not yet contracted the flu even though I have been around those who have. I do not to be sensitive to catching what everyone else catches and believe building a more natural immunity is preferable to having and organism either dead or alive injected into my body.

This is my opinion and have the right to express it as I should be able to continue to have the right to not accept a vaccination.

Susan Thompson, Home Health - RN, Bayada September 2, 2010 4:37 PM
Hendersonville NC

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