Why I Think MANDATING Flu Vaccinations is a BAD Policy for Patients and Nurses

Flu vaccinations are overall a good thing, BUT, mandating them is a bad policy.  It won’t keep patients safer, in my opinion, and is a serious encroachment on personal rights of healthcare workers.

Here’s my reasoning: 

1.  Flu vaccinations don’t guarantee protection from the flu and therefore even nurses who are vaccinated may get and spread it.

2. Healthcare workers infected with HIV, Hepatitis, and possibly other contagious diseases, known and unknown are among us.

3. To allow nurses the right to refuse b/c of religious beliefs, but not personal and educated preference seems archaic to me and actually supports a heirarchal way of thinking rather than the kind of educated empowerment that healthcare professionals, consumers, and systems can all benefit from.

4.  The policy does nothing to eliminate the spreading of the flu from visitors, (do we require all visitors to be vaccinated and if so, when as the vaccine won’t be effective for roughly 2 wks)?

5.  Patients may get a false sense of security going to a hospital with a policy like this and be less vigilant about monitoring/insisting on handwashing.

6.  There is nothing that addresses the number of staff taking care of patients which is an invisible, yet important concern that gets very complicated with human resource issues involving staff turnover, morale, full/part time benefits etc.  Yet statistically, the more people involved the more likely transmission.  In other words, having different staff every day contributes to the problem even though it may save money in terms of benefits.

Ensuring education about flu transmission and making vaccines available (early in the season) with a declination process is safer for patients and more respectful of HCWs.    In addition, keeping healthcare workers healthy with reasonable workloads and respect for the time it takes to do things properly and work-life balance, along with appropriate use of masks, will go a long ways to minimizing the spread of ANY contagion.  (Masks help prevent transmission of bacteria and viruses that are in droplets that go into the air when someone with the ‘germs’ coughs or sneezes.  They don’t eliminate the transmission though, b/c bacteria and viruses are smaller than the filter….so the mask prevents the droplets from getting through and as long as the germs stay in the droplets and the droplets on the outside of the mask, then prevention is successful.  Other factors would be how long the person is using the mask, how long the germ is viable without a human host, eg temperature, moisture.  (HIV-several hours, Hepatitis C-several days).

I personally got a flu shot, but would have resented being forced to or having my religious beliefs justify my refusal but not my own decision.  If I had a loved one who suffered because of a contaminated injection of any sort, (like incidents of fungal meningitis, or hepatitis C from healthcare system problems), or side effect to the vaccine, I would think twice.  I respect those who don’t get the vaccine once educated and given access.  Please practice appropriate disease prevention hygiene!

The 1/3/13 Huffington Post article by Ryan Grenoble, entitled, Goshen Hospital Employees Fired After Refusing Mandatory Flu Shot goes into some detail about who got fired from an Indiana hospital and why.

The Massachussets Nurses Association has a great list of systems-focused recommendations featured in a recent post;  Thank You Massachussets Nurses Association..


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5 Responses to Why I Think MANDATING Flu Vaccinations is a BAD Policy for Patients and Nurses

  1. Pingback: Is Mandating Flu Vaccines Bad Policy?

  2. Beth Boynton says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Meg and interesting analogy to seatbelt law. Makes me wonder if the mandate policy IS illegal. Seems like it should be! Beth

  3. Great Post. I agree with you.
    I will be referencing it in a blog on my site very soon.

  4. Meg Helgert says:

    I agree..mandating a flu vaccine then firing people for not getting immunized to sounds illegal. Handwashing and masks work well..however mandating wearing seatbelts took a long time to catch on; but now saves lives and are connected with “Click it or Ticket”. It took several years of well done infommercials to get most of us to start wearing the seatbelts.

    I think maybe there was more to this story; other than the usual people claiming “religious beliefs or egg allergies”. I have seen significant local allergic reactions to flu vaccines; people tell me all the time once they get the flu shot they then “get sick” with the flu.

    Personally mandating anything leads to bad outcomes especially when the science behind the mandate really isn’t all that scientific. The seatbelt mandate was actually well done; lots of research and crash site investigations went into this law. CDC hasn’t done that amount of research so in conclusion; I am not convinced mandating flu shots makes sense.

    Meg Helgert

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