How to Sidestep Hospital Flu Shot Mandates

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, 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."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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