ANA Urges Nurses to Get H1N1 Vaccines
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:
- The mandatory policy comes from the highest level of legal authority, ideally state government
- Suitable exemptions, such as for those allergic to components of the vaccine, are included
- Discriminating against or disciplining nurses who choose not to participate is prohibited
- The policy is part of a comprehensive infection control program that includes personal protective equipment, such as N95 respirators, to increase safety
- Vaccinations are free and provided at convenient times and locations to foster compliance
- The employer negotiates with worker union representatives to resolve any differences when the policy is implemented at a healthcare facility
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."