It’s the last day of summer, which means the autumn flu season looms ahead of us. It was a particularly bad flu season in the US, officially reaching epidemic levels in January. Also in January, several nurses there were fired for refusing to have the flu vaccine, which their employers had made mandatory in the light of the severity of the epidemic.
At least 15 nurses were fired, while in the small state of Rhode Island more than 1000 workers signed a petition against making the vaccine compulsory. There’s also a Facebook page called People Against Mandatory Flu Shots for Healthcare Workers. There have been previous legal cases in the US on behalf of nurses trying to stop compulsory flu vaccination – some of which have succeeded.
Ethel Hoover wore black on her last day at work after being fired for refusing the vaccine - she’d been employed there for 22 years.
Why would health care workers refuse the vaccine? Allergy, religious objections and scepticism about whether vaccinating health workers will prevent flu in patients are some of the reasons.
While mandates for vaccinating against other diseases, including measles, mumps and hepatitis, are widely accepted, some have less faith that flu shots work — there are several types of flu virus that often differ each season and vaccines must be reformulated each year to try and match the circulating strains.
Carla Brock was fired after 11 years as a pre-admissions nurse for refusing to wear a mask because she’d refused the vaccine.
The argument is getting louder for compulsory vaccination of healthcare workers, but in NSW influenza vaccine is recommended but not compulsory. The NSW Department of Helath’s policy PD2011_005 covers vaccination issues. It is now compulsory for all new staff to be vaccinated against specified vaccine-preventable diseases but not longterm staff.
It’s unlikely that a nurse here would get fired for refusing the flu vaccine, however if they refuse they will often be put in an environment where they’ll be less likely to come into contact with infections and this might not give them job satisfaction.
What do you think – do you get the flu vaccine? Do you think it’s helped you avoid the flu or get a less severe dose? Do you support mandatory flu vaccine for nurses?