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Ethics, vaccines

Why we need mandatory flu vaccination for health care workers

I get my flu shot every year. I am always one of the first in line.

I’ve had the flu. Recently in fact, and it was no picnic.

I caught H1N1 in the spring of 2009 (Mother’s Day weekend to be precise), before the vaccine was available. It was horrible…I was flat on my back for 2 days and, oh my God, those myalgias. In  addition to taking a course of Tamiflu, I was off work for 6 days to protect my co-workers and patients from my contagion. Oh yeah, and the fear. The fear that I would give this infection to my son. Oliver who has

Do you need another reason to get a flu shot?

already been hospitalized twice with influenza despite annual vaccinations. Oliver, my precious boy who depends on herd immunity. Oliver, who if he gets the flu and is sick enough to require hospitalization has a 39% risk of needing a ventilator based on his neuromuscular issues and his lung disease, never mind his heart disease (Kerem R. et al JAMA 2005).

So I get a flu shot to protect myself, to protect my kids, and to protect my patients. Sadly, not every health care professional shares that sentiment.

Despite recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee that all U.S. health care personnel (HCP) be vaccinated annually against influenza, last year during the 2009–10 influenza season, only 61.9% of HCP received seasonal influenza vaccination.

Sigh.

Yup, 38.1% of health care personnel…

  • can’t fit it in their schedule (dudes, you work in a place where you can get the vaccine)
  • refuse to believe the evidence based medicine that the influenza vaccine reduces the burden of disease, reduces sick days, and saves lives (the vaccine reduces your chance of getting the flu by 72%)
  • believe that the flu vaccine causes the flu (it doesn’t)
  • believe the vaccine in dangerous (The rate of serious adverse events is 8.8 per 1 million doses for the H1N1 vaccine and 4.1 per 1 million doses for the seasonal influenza vaccine).
  • are scared of shots (there is a nasal spray)
  • don’t believe the flu is all that bad (it almost killed my son. Twice.)
  • have some other excuse that is lamer than those listed above.

BTW, all excuses from health care personnel for refusing the flu vaccine are lame, because, I don’t know, THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER. Perhaps I didn’t emphasize that point enough.

They should fucking know better.

Listening to anti-vaccine/conspiracy theory lay people spew garbage is one thing, but when that drivel comes from the mouths of people who are supposed to be in the field of health care (meaning you are supposed to care…about good medicine and about your patients, oh, and probably about the public too), it’s another thing.

That’s why I’m all for mandatory flu vaccination. Employers saying, “Flu vaccination is a condition of employment.” It’s not such a big stretch. Every year I have to prove that I don’t have tuberculosis, and not just for my own protection, so I don’t unwittingly transmit it to my coworkers and patients. The flu is no different. The other bonus (as if preventing patients from contracting flu from their doctor or nurse wasn’t enough incentive), employees who are vaccinated take fewer sick days.

And here’s the thing. Mandatory flu vaccination works. When it is a condition of employment, flu vaccination rates jump to 98.1% (ref: MMWR, Vol. 60, No. 32, August 19, 2011).

It’s a simple as that.

So I call on every hospital and medical practice to make flu vaccination a condition of employment/hospital privileges. It’s the smartest business decision you can make.

Because apparently without the help of employers, 38.1% of health care personnel will continue to put some of the most vulnerable at risk.

And there’s no caring in that. Not at all.

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Discussion

13 thoughts on “Why we need mandatory flu vaccination for health care workers

  1. My grandmother was a nurse, and she told me that if she wasn’t allergic to eggs, she would’ve gotten the flu shot every single year. I was scared of the H1N1 vaccine that first year, but my husband and youngest son (he has asthma) get the shots every year. My oldest and I do not as we’re allergic to eggs, but if we weren’t, we would get them. We are about to get our oldest tested again for the egg allergy to see if he’s outgrown it. I hope he has.

    I’m not sure about people not getting the flu from the shot, b/c I have known people who only seem to get the flu when they get the flu shot. It happened to my dad and my husband, and others have expressed the same. It could be a coincidence, or it could be a rare response to it. I’m not sure. But I definitely understand your concerns. As my son has severe asthma (he got pneumonia from a simple cold that barely affected the rest of us), knowing that pertussis has made a comeback because of people not vaccinating their kids scares me to death. There was an outbreak not far from where we live last year that had me very nervous. People really need to vaccinate! And this is coming from someone who used to be anti-vax for a long time b/c I bought into all the garbage that was being fed to me about them.

    Posted by Always Sick Chick | November 3, 2011, 8:11 pm
  2. I work in an ER and am now mandated to get a flu shot. I have until December 15th to find another job. I have made a personal decision to not get a flu shot, never have and have never had the flu. I have read information on both sides of the issue and do not want the shot, so I will lose my job, my income and my insurance. The bigger issue is that this is the United States of America. There have been many more before me to lose so much more to fight for the freedoms that this country is built on. We have the right to decide what we put in our bodies. I would not tell you not to get one, that is your choice and that is the point. They have combined the H1N1 with the seasonal shot this year and I do not want that one either. I won’t argue the influenza debate but I will say we don’t have to fear terrorists since we are taking away our own freedoms with the Chicken Little syndrome. Maybe there is a vax for that ?

    Posted by Sandy | November 12, 2011, 6:08 pm
  3. i AGREE WITH YOU PEOPLE DO NOT ASK THEMSELVES WHY IS IT MANDATORY TO DO SOMETHING YOU KNOW IS NOT RIGHT AND IS NOT PREVENTING ANYTHING OR CURE. iF MORE PEOPLE WOULD QUESTION THING INSTEAD OF RUNNING FOR IT THEY WOULD STOP. THESE VACCINATIONS IS NOT HELPING OUR SYSTEM BUT BREAKING IT DOWN READ INTO YOUR VACCINATIONS.

    Posted by CONCERN | November 27, 2011, 1:52 pm
  4. It’s stupid. I am a resident and I have to get flu shot…I got cold twice , one ofter another, after getting flu shot…it was almost 7 years since my last cold…I don’t like to get flu shot…Ir’s stupid, and is against my will…Fake democracy….

    Posted by Hilda | November 29, 2011, 1:33 pm
  5. Thank you for writting this and for your support on the mandatory flu vaccinations for HCWs. It is unbelievable that those educated people are so scarry when it comes to flu vaccinations! We all have an obligation to first do no harm! People don’t need to come to the hospital to get sick and possibly die because they acquired the flu while staying there. Or other workers don’t need to get it from those who didn’t bother to consider it important. I don’t want to take any other infectious disease home to my family; why is it so hard for people to understand that this influenza is an deadly infectious disease? People don’t question getting the Hepatitis B vaccinations at work for free, don’t fuss about getting the TB testing done, don’t worry about being up to date on their MMR vaccinations – so why is influenza so hard? Vaccinations work! We all need to be less selfish and to think of others first, that’s why I am working in healthcare, because I do care about the patients I see. If healthcare workers aren’t in the busines for the caring part and are only in it for the money, they better start shopping for other jobs, because mandatory flu vaccinations are coming!

    Posted by Cathy | December 20, 2011, 1:32 pm
  6. Give me a break people.Stop being vaccine zombies! I’m a nurse and see the condition people are in, but in most cases it is b/c of the choices we make; START eating healthy& raw foods, stop being addicited to sugar, get enough sunshine (vitamin D which has been proven to build the immune response and protect against the flu) and exercise! Most Americans are bubbling idiots & run to the doctor the first time they get a sniffle. The health care system is a disaster b/c we don’t take care of ourselves and are fat and overstressed.There is tons of evidence to support that vaccines are not safe and tons of stories to listen to about neurological damage like Guillain-barré syndrome. A lot of vaccination reactions go unreported. The CDC, FDA, WHO all lie and fake scew their numbers. Big Pharma is winning this vaccine battle at the expense of human lives b/c Americans don’t stand up for their FIRST Amendment rights (right for religious exemption).Yes, it is my body and I don’t need your poison so I can possibly protect myself from the flu. Get real, get educated: go to vaclib.org and drtenpenny.com….WASH YOUR HANDS!

    Posted by Renee | December 27, 2011, 3:36 am
  7. If I go into a hospital for treatment I expect the doctors and nurses to wash their hands before working on a patient.
    And I expect them to be vaccinated against infectious deseases -espacially Influenza which kills more people than AIDS each year.

    Posted by George | February 14, 2012, 4:36 am
    • Do you have a choice what they put into your body while you are in the hospital? Yes you do. Seems we should get the same right. And where does it stop? Next it will be schools, grocery stores, etc. We are giving up our rights little by little and people like you do it willingly because of fear. Hmm smart tactic. One can only wonder if the fear is created on purpose.

      Posted by Anna | September 25, 2012, 2:06 pm
    • The reason the flu kills people is our immune system is to weak to fight it off. I have worked in healthcare for 25 years and the flu shot does not stop you from getting the flu. We treat as many people who have the flu (even though thy had the shot) as those with the flu that didn’t get the shot. And you have NO respect for healthcare workers! We put our life on the line everyday to take care of people. If you want healthcare workers to be vaccinated against infectious diseases….. then I want all my patients to be responsible, not drunk, not morbidly obese, compliant and not drug seeking! Very rarely do we get people who are sick because of something they have no control over!

      Posted by sara | August 15, 2013, 9:38 am
  8. I am a healthcare worker. I will never get a flu shot or any other vaccine. Adverse reactions are grossly under-reported in the medical community. Evidence supporting the efficacy of vaccines is just not there. Read about it! You sound like someone who has not researched this side of the issue. Google the Cochran report and vaccine effectiveness and you will get an eye full. I would quit my job before ever having that poison injected into my body. In Italy, recent landmark decision by the court to award a family a sizable amount of money for the MMR vaccine causing Autism in their child. Just wait, it will happen here, Europe is far ahead of us in healthcare. They banned trans-fats many years ago. So, before you go “spewing” about the marvels of vaccines, educate yourself.

    Posted by Lucia Johnson | August 29, 2012, 10:41 pm
  9. I have worked in healthcare for 27 years. I don’t get the flu, never have, even when I am around those that have it. I eat right, exercise and take vitamins. I haven’t missed a day of work in over 3 years. I have worked in a ventilator dependent unit and have seen several Guillian-Barre patients on ventilators, who had gotten their flu shot before they developed the progressive paralysis of GB. My hospital has just now made the flu vaccine mandatory. So I am debating now about leaving my job that I have loved for 7 years. That’s how strongly I feel about not wanting the shot. I know for a fact that many adverse effects from the flu go unreported, and since the vaccine doesn’t protect you from all types of flu, I don’t understand how they can make this mandatory. I think big pharma must make a lot of money from flu vaccines.

    Posted by Dee | September 21, 2013, 5:21 pm

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