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How to Sidestep Hospital Flu Shot Mandates

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

I personally feel very conflicted about this issue. On one hand, I totally understand nurses' resistance to vaccine mandates as a condition of employment. Something seems very wrong with being forced to inject something into your body.

But I'm also the mom of a little girl who had surgery twice before she was five months old. It was late autumn, and the hospital was heavily restricting visitors because of a local flu outbreak. Only immediate family—and absolutely no kids—could visit my daughter after her surgery.

Our pediatrician vehemently insisted that I, my husband, our parents, and any other adult who came into contact with her be vaccinated against the flu. I personally harangued my relatives—who had no health or religious reasons for not getting the vaccine—until they complied. Not only was I worried about her surgical complications, I was worried that my unvaccinated infant would be exposed to a flu outbreak.

I knew that the flu vaccine would not be 100% effective, but I still felt better about having that extra level of protection. A heavy padlock might not keep a determined intruder out of your home for long, but locking the door is safer than leaving it open.

At the end of the day, no one should be forced to get a flu vaccine as a condition of employment; there are too many legal and ethical problems with doing so. However, mandates with provisions and conditions such as those outlined by the ANA seem warranted.

In the meantime, healthcare groups that oppose a mandate, but support vaccinations should take much stronger action to achieve higher voluntary vaccination rates.


Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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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?