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How to Sidestep Hospital Flu Shot Mandates

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

The union also argues that "issues such as vaccination supply and efficacy make it such that the vaccine cannot be relied upon to exclusively provide adequate protection from the flu virus."

In its written policy provided to HealthLeaders Media, the American Nurses Association "urges all registered nurses to get vaccinated every year to protect themselves, their families, and the patients they serve."  However, it "does not support mandatory influenza vaccination requirements for healthcare workers unless they adhere to certain guidelines to ensure they are fair, equitable and nondiscriminatory."

The ANA believes a mandate should be implemented only if:

  • 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 health care facility

But voluntary measures don't seem to work as well. According to the CDC, "during the 2010-2011 influenza season, coverage for influenza vaccination among healthcare workers was estimated at 63.5%." However, "coverage was 98.1% among healthcare workers who had an employer requirement for vaccination."

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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?