How to Sidestep Hospital Flu Shot Mandates

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , February 14, 2012

Should vaccinations against influenza be mandatory for healthcare workers?

A debate is currently raging about whether the decision to get a flu shot should be made by a nurse, or by his or her employer. In Massachusetts, one in five employees at acute care hospitals declined to be vaccinated last fall.

Last week, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) recommended that hospitals, physician practices, and other healthcare organizations "strongly consider" imposing a flu shot mandate among employees if they fail to achieve 90% voluntary immunization.

Organizations such as the American Hospital Association and American Academy of Family Physicians support mandatory flu vaccines for healthcare workers, with exceptions in the case of health or religious opposition. But nurses have provided some of the most vocal opposition to such mandates; just read some of the individual comments and the summary of public comments about the issue.

Although the nurses' union National Nurses United "maintains the position that every RN should be vaccinated against the flu," it opposes vaccine mandates, saying that such programs "engender distrust and resistance among employees; offer a disincentive to providing vaccination education to employees, and raise ethical and legal questions about the personal employment rights of employees."

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2 comments on "How to Sidestep Hospital Flu Shot Mandates"

Jo Marie Seabrook (2/16/2012 at 4:22 PM)
The author wrote organizations "should take much stronger action to achieve higher voluntary vaccination rates". Hospitals are bending over backwards to get their employees to get vaccinated. We offer free vaccines, offer vaccinations at entrances, by the cafeteria, have champions deliver vaccine to the units and we cannot convince the remaining 50% of our workforce to get the vaccine. No one likes mandates but it may have to come to that.

Douglas Hough (2/15/2012 at 9:36 AM)
Perhaps I am missing something? Shouldn't the needs of the patient come first? If, by declining to get vaccinated, a health professional increases the risk to the patient, why is that acceptable? Let's take an extreme case: Suppose a nurse or physician were "required" to wash her hands before seeing a patient in the ICU, but refused (perhaps because of a concern about her own allergic reaction to the soap). Should the hospital allow her to do so?




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