Should Health Care Workers Be Required to Get Flu Vaccinations?

On the Scene Blog: Mandatory policies increase participation at some hospitals, but are controversial.

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Mark Edwards, an attorney at the Hospital Corporation of America in Nashville, Tenn., which owns and operates hospitals, says the dispute over mandatory vaccinations for health care workers "has made a lot of lawyers very happy." Courts have handed down mixed rulings on the matter, and the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., has not ruled on the issue. In some cases, the dispute might be resolved if addressed when employers bargain contracts with their unionized workers, Edwards says.

In any case, most people have a choice of getting the flu vaccine by injection or nasal spray, so fear of needles is typically no excuse, Rakita says. More often, staffers declining vaccination cite fears of adverse effects of the vaccine itself, he says.

Staffers at pediatric hospitals and clinics seem more receptive to mandatory flu vaccinations, data suggest. Chatterjee says this might result because health workers have a protective instinct toward children.

But Andrew Pavia, a physician at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, says this receptivity to mandated vaccination might go deeper than that. "In children's hospitals, we've seen complications from the flu in children. There's a gut level response in children's hospitals where workers recognize what influenza can look like."

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