Mandatory Flu Vaccine for Health Workers, Say Experts

Mandatory flu vaccines for health care workers. That’s the strong recommendation of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

In a press release dated August 31, SHEA said:

“Influenza vaccination of health care personnel is a professional and ethical responsibility and non-compliance with health care facility policies regarding vaccination should not be tolerated,” calling influenza vaccination of health care workers as a “core patient safety practice that should be a condition of both initial and continued employment in health care facilities.”

SHEA’s recommendations apply to all health care professionals in all health care settings, regardless of whether the professional has direct patient contact or whether he or she is directly employed by the facility. The policy also applies to students, volunteers, and contract workers, with exemptions only in cases of medical contraindications.

The group says that health care workers are “ethically obligated” to take measures to prevent the spread of influenza, including getting hand hygiene, cough etiquette, use of protective equipment, restriction of ill personnel in health care facilities, and the influenza vaccine.

Dr. Richard Whitley, president of IDSA, is quoted as saying:

“The scientific evidence shows significant reductions in the risk of influenza in both acute and long-term care settings as a result of strong immunization policies and programs. Vaccination of health care personnel saves patients’ lives and reduces illness. It also protects the individual worker from falling ill during influenza outbreaks and from missing work, which further impacts patient care… Given the debate that surrounded mandatory health care personnel vaccination during the last influenza season, we support and applaud SHEA for issuing a strong and unequivocal statement about the critical importance of health care personnel vaccination.”

Some private hospital chains around the country made flu vaccines mandatory and in 2009, New York state required it of all health care workers with direct patient contact.

From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

“All HCP and persons in training for health care professions should be vaccinated annually against influenza.

A mandatory influenza vaccination policy for HCP, exempting only those with a medical contraindication, has been demonstrated to be a highly effective approach to achieving high vaccine coverage among HCP. Hospitals and health care systems that have mandated vaccination of HCP often have achieved coverage rates of more than 90%, and persons refusing vaccination who do not have a medical contraindication have been required to wear a surgical mask during influenza season in some programs. Efforts to increase vaccination coverage among HCP using mandatory vaccination policies are supported by various national accrediting and professional organizations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and in certain states by statute. Worker objections, including legal challenges, are an important consideration for facilities considering mandates. Studies to assess the impact of mandatory HCP vaccination on patient outcomes are needed.

Fear of vaccinations in general and distrust of big pharma and government keep many health care workers from availing themselves of an annual flu shot.

“Mandatory” is a loaded word, one which makes a lot of us uncomfortable. On the other hand, health care workers are on the front lines of medical care, coming into very close contact with the sick and injured — the most vulnerable among us.

Last year’s H1N1 pandemic brought the issue front and center and the new flu season promises to amplify the controversy.

Please take a moment to weigh in on the poll below and leave your comments about mandatory flu vaccinations for health care workers, both pro and con.

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Jo S.
Jo Sabout a year ago

Thank you Ann.

Joe R.
Joe R4 years ago

It is irresponsible for healthcare workers not to get the flu shot. If you don't want it, please stay home during the flu season!

Charles Webb
Charles Webb5 years ago

If you are in public, and especially sick or old people, you are a menace. Flu shots work to help not only yourself but others. Unless you have a history of bad reactions, or are allergic to eggs, you should get a shot. If you are ever sick with sniffles or anything else possibly contagious, stay home and quit compromising others around you.

Charles Webb
Charles Webb6 years ago

What part of "you are endangering sick people" do you not understand? I get a whole bevy of vaccines and tests I don't even have to, because I work with AIDS and cancer patients and other immune compromised patients, on a volunteer basis. If I were to pass on something to one of them, and they died, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. How can you put your unfounded paranoia above the safety of others? I would make it mandatory for people working in schools as well. Another thing is there are lots of vulnerable people who can't take the flu shot because of allergies or some other reason. You are endangering them as well. You don't want the shot? Stay the hell home!

Gabe B.
Gabe B6 years ago

Thimersol is safe you say, and formaldehyde.. Ever take a science class in college, ever study biochemistry, or chemistry. NO? then lets says " I disagree".....I would find YOU to be rather MISinformed. Go to Vaccine safety thimersol.see for info on Formaldehyde

FreeSpeaker USA
FreeSpeaker USA6 years ago

Gabe B: "My problems lies with the safety and reliability of the vaccines, and their ingredients." Care to provide any data that the vaccine is NOT safe? As for the ingredients, Thimerosal is safe, aluminum adjuvant is safe and formaldehyde is made in the human body and is ingested since it is ubiquitous in the environment. If you are worried about the snips of snails and puppy dog tails, well...there is nothing that anyone can tell you that will change your mind.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Every time they give the flu or pneumonia vaccine at my husband's dialysis center the head nurse gets sick.

Gabe B.
Gabe B6 years ago

To FreeSpeakerUSA,
Thank you for your (physical) donation and dedication to Our country. I have no problem with the Idea of the shot. My problems lies with the safety and reliability of the vaccines, and their ingredients. Last time I checked, we still have the right REGARDLESS of our chosen professions to have a choice as to what we put into our bodies. While unlike in the military, in the medical field we still have free will. And in Kindergarten, I was taught more than that. But thank you for your concerns

FreeSpeaker USA
FreeSpeaker USA6 years ago

To Gabe B. Speaking of aoths, I recall that when I was given the Oath to Protect and Defend the Constitution of The United States, it said nothing about leaving a chunk of my gluteus maximus in the jungles of South East Asia. There is more to an oath than just the words. Too bad "they" did not teach you that in kindergarten.

Gabe B.
Gabe B6 years ago

TO FreeSpeakerUSA,
I remember specifically the Oath I took as a nurse, Since I was in charge of reading it for my graduating class. and yeah , It DIDN'T say ANYTHING about mandating any injections for the welfare of others or when I signed my contract as a nurse with my employers. So SORRY. "Not going to do it."