Government Should Act on Mandatory Flu Shots

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , October 5, 2009

"In fact, masks can give a false sense of security for nurses, patients, and their families. Unfortunately, MultiCare's focus on masks is not based on evidence or research," Frye says.

This too seems not unreasonable.

In fact, it's hard to find fault with either side in this issue. There are no black hats here.

Here's my take: First, let's acknowledge that MultiCare and WSNA believe they are acting in the best interests of patients and healthcare professionals.

Small picture: MultiCare is correct. It acted because of the seriousness of H1N1 and because there was no controlling authority above it to mandate vaccinations.

Other small picture: WSNA is correct. The union sued because a unilateral mandate on vaccinations violates the bargaining rights of employees and could set a mandate for future unilateral actions.

Large picture: A government mandate on vaccinations for healthcare workers is needed. Hospitals should not respond to H1N1 in a patchwork fashion. Not only is it confusing, it's ineffective.

This is an issue that won't pass when H1N1 runs its course. This year it's H1N1. Next year, who knows? Avian flu? Contagious disease experts have been saying for years that it's not a question of "if" but "when" the nation confronts a major influenza pandemic or epidemic. Healthcare workers will be on the front lines when that happens. They need to be protected, both for their own sake, and for the sake of patients. Let's take the patchwork out of this.

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John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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