The American Nurses Association says it remains opposed to mandatory influenza vaccine policies, but it is also urging all registered nurses to get the H1N1 vaccine to protect themselves and the patients they serve.
"ANA understands the potential need for a mandatory vaccination policy during a pandemic, but we are committed to ensuring that such policies are not discriminatory or punitive and contain appropriate exemptions," said ANA President Rebecca M. Patton. "The bottom line is no registered nurse should be fired for not being vaccinated. That said, we should all be vaccinated, since no one has immunity to this new H1N1 strain. While some groups may be more vulnerable to severe illness and death, we are all susceptible."
ANA believes mandatory H1N1 vaccination policies should only be implemented under these conditions:
Patton said ANA's protection of nurses' workplace rights should not be confused with the message ANA is delivering to nurses: Get the H1N1 vaccine. To promote vaccinations, ANA is sending a letter to its members and affiliated specialty nursing organizations encouraging immunization for H1N1 and seasonal influenza.
Seasonal influenza vaccination rate for nurses and all healthcare workers consistently remains below 50%. "Nurses have an ethical obligation to protect ourselves, our patients, and our families from illness," Patton said. "Vaccination is one simple step we can take to do that, and it's even more crucial during this H1N1 pandemic. We strongly encourage nurses to lead the way to increasing vaccination rates among healthcare workers."