A shot in the arm for forced flu immunization argument

By: September 28th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

A short and to-the-point appeal for mandating flu shots for healthcare workers appeared in the September 27 Boulder Daily Camera. The editorial, which is an excerpt from one that appeared recently in the Minnesota Star Tribune, makes the case in less time than it takes to roll up your sleeve, receive the flu shot, and, hopefully, watch the needle be safely disposed—once a safety geek, always a safety geek, I suppose. Here is the editorial:

Mandate flu shots for health workers

Imagine your reaction if you watched a loved one wheeled into surgery, then saw staff preparing to operate without masks, sterile gowns, and gloves.

No one questions these basic protections against infection. Nor do individual staffers get to decide if they want to suit up for patient safety. If employees don’t feel like wearing a mask, they don’t get past the operating room door.

And yet when it comes to another critical patient-safety measure — influenza vaccines for healthcare workers — medical centers across the nation are shockingly hesitant to mandate the protection of those cared for within their walls.

A growing number of influential medical organizations are calling for mandatory shots for workers — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the National Patient Safety Foundation. Despite this, institutions that should know better remain skittish about a mandate. The American Nurses Association backs away from enforcement of a mandatory policy.

Hospitals require some vaccinations, such as the shot protecting against measles, mumps, and rubella. In addition, many healthcare workers are tested for tuberculosis. Requiring the flu shot is a necessary and sensible step whose time has come.

Click here to read the full editorial and accompanying comments.

Still straddling the fence on mandatory flu shots, or are your feet firmly planted on the opposing side? Let us know in the comment section below.

Navigate the sticky issues around mandatory flu shots
Seasonal and H1N1 influenza have prompted many healthcare facilities to consider mandatory influenza immunization for employees. The reaction from employees has been unmistakably vocal, as issues of patient safety and workers’ rights clash. HCPro’s Mandatory Influenza Vaccinations: Get Healthcare Staff Onboard at Your Facility, a 90-minute on-demand webcast will provide you with the medical and organizational perspectives for developing a mandatory influenza immunization policy.


I have worked hospital security for four years. Being a diligent employee, I get my flu shot every year. Also, every year I contract the flu. Last year, I got the H1N1 shot. Last year, I contracted H1N1. I’m not saying that the vaccines are the cause of my annual ailment, but i think i will skip the shot this year.

One of the main concerns among the healthcare workers is the complications and side effects of the flu shot. Even among my own infection control team members, I have huge difficulties in convincing them to go for the shot, despite deploying various approach including education, ‘coercion’.. Unlike SARS, they do not see the impact of influenza. I think making it a mandatory requirement will be the ultimate approach.

I’m not against mandatory flu shots. Unfortunately, inconsistencies exist between facilities (some require, some don’t), states, and even types of facilities (hospitals vs. long-term care, e.g.). Therefore employees who decline vaccination simply shrug their shoulders and find employment with someone who does not require.
A nation-wide mandate would be necessary, thus sparing individual facilities the burden of dealing with legalities, loss of staff, etc.

Each individual should be able to make the decision as to get the flu shot or to decline. I work in the healthcare field and this year we are being scared and intimidated into getting the flu shot telling us that if we do not get it, it could effect our annual performance reviews because it would be “demonstrating behaviors that are inconsistant with the flu prevention expectations in the area of Stewardship”. Stewardship is a employee behavior that is evaluated at the company I work for.

Tell me, since when is the newspaper the authority on medical issues??
This issue is one that is infused with intimidation, threats and poorly substantiated information. Since when is that reliable medical information? It’s also political. Didn’t the CDC send a notice not too long ago that the H1N1 is all over? It’s not believable that it will return this year. I am impressed by Dave from IL’s comments. How many others had the same experience? I never got the immunization and neither did I get the flu. No I wasn’t”lucky”. This is all a power play with scare tactics and an introduction to those who are making real caring and rights insignificant.

By David LaHoda on September 29th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Actually, the point was that the newspaper editorial nicely summarized the positions of “influential medical organizations” such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the National Patient Safety Foundation.

I am also an RN and I am ashamed by the lack of professional responsibility being shown by the nursing and medical professions with regard to getting the flu shot. Protecting the public’s health is the primary responsibility of our professions. Yet I continue to hear about “rights violations” froms staff and peers. Would that be the right to infect the public? It is an honor to serve the public and shouldn’t have the option to infect others. If this is an issue for someon, they need to be bagging groceries.

I am the infection control person in our Mental Health outpatient clinic. I am unable to take the vaccine because I am very allergic to eggs. I still encourage everyone to carefully consider the risk and benifits of the flu vaccine and to make their own decision. My concern is that mandatory requirements by a government agency means we have lost the right to make personal decisions. Giving up rights can be a slippery slide into no rights. Proper education not mandate is the appropriate way to go.

I applaud you Lois, that is exactly the issue!! We must look at the bigger picture. This is a matter of freedom, not health, and I am not willing to give up the freedoms that our forefathers fought for. Professional responsiblity is NOT measured by a flu shot. I would ask those who are “Pro” mandating if they follow strict standard and transmission based precautions, apply their PPE correctly, and live a healthy life style. When I see a Pro-mandate nurse removing her gloves incorrectly, I think hypocrit. Let’s not assume the only way to keep from infecting others is to inject something into our bodies, and then do whatever else we want to. That is personal irresponsibility. Oh, and by the way,I do get a flu shot every year, because I CHOOSE to.

I used to work as an RN in a clinical setting, and I have never had the flu as an adult, and never had a flu shot. If I was still working in healthcare, I would not get one.

That said, does the mandate include physicians? Are hospitals going to take away their privileges if they don’t comply with a mandate? Will their offices be closed down?

Also, I have to say, that healthcare workers are a lot “cleaner” and more conscientious than visitors. And visitors have much closer contact with the patient. How about mandating all visitors to the hospital get a flu shot, if you really want to cut down on infection. Oh, I forgot, bad PR.

Finally, in the great realm of things, healthcare workers are far more likely to catch something from patients, than vice versa!

By Roxane Patterson on October 4th, 2010 at 7:21 am

We have mandated the Seasonal Flu Vaccine for two years now. Initially, we met resistance, but this year has been much less. I believe it is imperative that we do whatever it takes to keep our healthcare workers well. I read a study last year that a large hospital conducted, asking healthcare workers why they didn’t want to receive the flu vaccine. The highest result was that they didn’t want to be told what to do. “Shame on them”.

I think that we have gotten a bit caught up in ourselves, reading the above comments. Go back and re-read the editorial. Now put yourself in a gown and hospital bed. Be sick, weak, vulnerable to infection. (Or visualize your premature infant child, your elderly parent with chronic conditions–whatever it takes to get to the place where we as healthcare providers see that we have a DUTY to protect our patients from PREVENTABLE disease). I agree with Roxane above: “Shame”.

Some sort of professional distance is required to be a healthcare professional, that is true. But I would ask the people who have already commented that they want to refuse the flu shot if they also would find it in their hearts to forgive any person (just like them) who would choose not to get a flu vaccination. Meaning,of course, that that lack of vaccination caused the death of a family member. Would you forgive the healthcare provider? The hospital where you brought the family member for care? I can only say for myself that I could not live with that kind of consequence for my inaction. I get the flu shot for my patients, for myself, and for my family. I care that much.

By Maureen Dion-Perry on October 7th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I am amazed at how much effort is going into resisting getting a simple flu shot and to personally adopt evidenced based practices. We have much bigger problems in health care to put our energy into. It is truly shameful that only 50% of Health care workers (including physicians) get their annual flu shot. This is not a slippery slope to lack of freedom – it is the right thing to do.

By Katherine Bryant on October 12th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I can’t believe it’s not already mandatory! What’s the difference in catching the flu and spreading it to someone it kills and catching TB and spreading it to someone it kills? We have to be tested and treated for TB.
Is it a violation of anyone’s rights?-Yes! It’s a violation of the patients I take care of with COPD, pnuemonia, HIV and every other condition that makes them vulnerable if their caregiver doesn’t care enough to do a simple thing like take a shot to prevent giving it to them. All these so-called nurses who feel their rights are being violated by being asked to prevent the spread of disease need to go back to the oath that states “First, do no harm.” Come ON people-let’s start a grass roots tea party for flu shots! We would find this totally unacceptable in any other industry-why should we be arguing about such a silly thing? It’s the right thing to do-let’s just shut up, roll up and DO IT!

By Mrs. Morris on November 14th, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Welcome to America next our jobs will force birth control so we do not take to much time off to have our kids or maybe force abortion to cut back on missed work. My job has forced the flu shot but I am deathly allergic to it so they are forcing anyone who refuses to be injected with this foreign substance, no mater what the reason, to were face masks. I think that is fine when doing patient care. The problem is I have allergy induced asthma. I found out last year when they force me to wear the mask that I am allergic to the preservatives in the masks. Short exposure is ok but I have to wear the mask for the entire 12 1/2 hr shift including during my lunch break. This is the new policy. If I don’t were the mask or if I take it off for any reason they say that I voluntarily quit my job. I cannot afford to quit my job. When I was hired, this policy did not exist. The people who hired me knew I had multiple allergy’s and asthma but otherwise I am very healthy. I can still do the job I was hired for and do it better than anyone I know. Now because of my inability to take the shot and because of my allergy’s I was forced to take FLMA. The masks caused blistering of my face and swelling of my jaw, my eyes, and my sinuses drained constantly and my lungs filled with fluid and this triggered my asthma. I went from having to use my asthma medication from 2 times a year to every 2 hours and having to use allergy medication and steroids just to breath. I lost money at my other job due to the masks causing lung problems. I asked if they could let me or them try finding a hypoallergenic mask or put me in a position that I could work away from people and they replied, “Take the shot or quit.” They say there is no position this multi billion dollar company can put me in and I am just to take 6 months off a year and FLMA cannot be used every 6 months. I was told by one of the top people in management (who is a nurse)in front of witnesses to take the shot anyway after I told her I was deathly allergic to it. I explained to her it could and probably would kill me, she told me to quit then. What do I do.

By David LaHoda on November 15th, 2010 at 11:33 am

I’m sorry for your situation, and your employer should make reasonable accommodations for your allegy to the mask. I would inquire about that again, but I wonder if your attitude (“Welcome to America next our jobs will force birth control so we do not take to much time off…”) is not seeping through with your relationship with your surpervisor. I have to admit that I was put off by it at first. If you are a good employee, your employer would want to keep you.

By Lillian Hunter on November 22nd, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I’ve been a critical care nurse for 15 years. My institution stated, “Get a shot or wear the mask from November to March when caring for or speaking to families within a 6 foot circumference.” No problem. I did that all 2009-2010 season. (Reason for my refusal: The flu shot swells my arm up and I get deathly ill.) In the 2010-2011 campaign for flu shots, the administration changed the policy to include masking around other employees now, too. Failure to comply means dismissal. Day two of the policy going into effect, I was approached by an RN who had a sticker on her name tag denoting that she has received the shot. She came into my space to harass me for not getting the vaccine and then reported me for not wearing the mask when I spoke to her. She had no business in my area. If the vaccination works so well, why do I have to wear a mask around someone who has been inoculated? Why aren’t we asking patients who aren’t inoculated to wear masks? Is the RN that reported me wearing a mask in public where people are blowing their noses and touching doorways, carts, groceries, stocking shelves…..where does it end? I see employees with colds and URIs hacking and sneezing, but no one forces them to wear a mask AND THEY’RE SICK!! There are so many other issues that need addressed. This is ridiculous. I made a choice and left. I’m good with that. I’m not good with becoming a target and the harassment that ensued. My bossed followed me out of the hospital asking me to reconsider. Many of my fellow co-workers have asked me to reconsider. I can’t. It’s wrong.

By G Carrick MS, R.Ph. on December 8th, 2010 at 12:27 am

What a bunch of sheep. There is NO proof that the flu shot is safe or effective, none. Do the math, and you will see that the you have a better chance of contracting Guillain-Barre Syndrome then preventing the flu. And the contention that you can’t get the flue from the shot, is pure BS. You may not get the strain of flu in the shot but while your body is busy making the wrong antibodies, you are defenseless against the other 1000 strains of flu. I am a pharmacist who has permanent physical and mental side effects from a drug “so safe we should put it in the drinking water”. So now I live by the adage that if their lips are moving, they are lying.

I am a family nurse practitioner of 5 years and an RN of 30 years. For the first time in my life last year I took the H1N1 vaccine went back to work and within one hour had hives and itching. Took a benedryl and went home from work. This year, went to see an allergist and it was determined that I could not even tolerate a 1/100 dilution of the flu vaccine without a hypersensitivity reaction. I was being forced to wear a mask in my community clinic setting with patients who are non english speakers and low educational levels and often have difficulty comprehending all the complexities of their chronic diseases on a good day with a bilingual FNP. You might as well have me try and take care of patients hopping on one foot, with my hands tied behind my back speaking jibberish. No one can understand me through a mask. I will be looking for a career change even though I love what I do.

I agree G Carrick! It bothers me to see that people are willing to be forced into injecting a substance into their bodies. What a violation. It seems that people today take in media advertisements and consider it to be valid “news” or actually informational and they don’t even know the difference. Follow the herd is right. I am a healthcare worker who will also be leaving the field of medicine. What really bothers me is that people refuse to believe, because they have been assured by advertisements (and that is exactly what they are), that it is as safe and that reactions don’t occur. That is completely and blatantly untrue. Severe reactions DO occur and all for the sake of not spending a few days in bed with the flu. Why take that risk?
However, what I find MOST disturbing is how advocates of forced immunizations want to give away rights that people in this country have fought for, become disabled for, and died for. What a slap in the face to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. I have served in the our military and am so ashamed of the how easily people are swayed into just giving away their rights without a fight but they are willing to wave the flag and say “Support our troops.” What hipocrisy! Those allowing this to happen should be ashamed.

I like the comment above about “The Sheeple” I too, am against this although I have the non-option of wearing the mask. The mask is also quite useless against virus as stated on the box and the CDC itself says it is useless. We oppose liberal agendas, robbing Peter to pay Paul, forced against our will “Nazi like” rules and regulations, etc. You say “don’t bring politics into this” but all must realize there is a complete and disastrous takeover of our government of our FREEDOM. “Absolute Power Corrupts absolutely”. Our next step, if you believe in following all historical truths, will be {BONDAGE}. Imagine that here in the greatest of all lands that began with the notion of getting away from what we are becoming. Well, you earned it Amerika – we the people have voted for handouts but the consequence is that we no longer have our FREEDOM. Thank you {all you slackards} that voted against FREEDOM. Now we will all pay for it and our children especially so. Wake up Amerika and fight against those that take our FREEDOM away from us – Don’t be fooled by the “feelings and emotions” policies that are running the liberal agenda.

No flu vaccine should be forced on anyone..HCP or anyone should be able to make up there mind what is best. This is what America is all about!Forcing flu vaccine is against Nurmberg Code.


Leave a Comment


« | Home | »

Subscribe - Get blog updates via e-mail

  • test
  • HCPro Broadcast Events Calendar