Many large hospitals and healthcare facilities now require all staff to get an annual flu vaccine. This vaccine is provided to the worker free of charge. The required staff that must get the flu shot includes nurses, doctors, nursing assistants, non-clinical staff, therapists, vendors, volunteers and residents. The mandatory flu vaccine policy was adopted by many large, well-known hospitals a couple of years ago. Due to the success of the policy, many hospitals in the United States are now requiring workers to get the flu shot yearly. They make this as a requirement just as public schools require students to be vaccinated for mumps, measles, rubella, polio etc. If the worker does not obtain the flu shot or provides valid documentation of exemption, they will be terminated by a certain date.
No doubt, this policy has caused some controversy. Many people feel their rights are being violated and that they do not like being told what to do concerning their own bodies. Hospitals look at it from the perspective that they are increasing worker productivity by decreasing the amount of call-ins and protecting patients from getting the flu.
So, what is the flu shot? The flu shot is a vaccine that protects from the influenza virus. This vaccine must be administered every year because virus strains change from year to year.
Response I have seen from the Flu Vaccine Mandate as a Nurse
Healthcare Workers Responses
I work in a large hospital that requires everyone yearly to obtain the flu shot. My hospital started requiring it about 2 years ago, before that, it was voluntary. As a nurse, I have seen a wide variety of responses because of this new policy. Most of the responses, unbelievably, have been compliance. There was the occasional grumble among nurses because they didn’t like being forced to do something, but they found it was beneficial for themselves, their families, and patients. Most importantly, they did not want to lose their job, especially in this economy and around Christmas time.
Most of the nurses I work with already received their flu shot yearly and did not have a problem with it being required. However, one nurse I worked with had an egg allergy and decided she was tired of being a nurse and all the bureaucracy so she retired her nursing license. She didn’t want to go through all the hoops of proving she was allergic to eggs and plus she did not believe in the effectiveness of vaccines.
I have asked many patients about what they think about healthcare workers being required to get the flu shot. Almost all have responded that they are happy with the policy because they feel safer. They go on to say that as a healthcare worker it is our job to protect patients from harm and vaccinating from the flu helps protect them, just like regular hand washing. However, there are a few that say that it is a violation of personal freedom.
Vaccines Have Always Been Required: Why Make a Fuss about a Mandated Flu Vaccine
As I pointed out earlier, in order for your child to attend public school, they must be vaccinated. The vaccination list gets longer and longer every year but most parents do it without a problem. Nursing students are required to obtain many vaccines before the can enter nursing school or go to clinicals. In addition, almost every healthcare setting requires healthcare workers to have the hepatitis B vaccine. Most people, without any fuss, comply with these mandates. However, some of the people who did not have a problem with the above have a problem with the flu vaccine mandate. Why?
I think the fact that you must get it every year makes it a nuisance. People hate getting shots with a needle in their arm. It is uncomfortable and not fun to do every year. In addition, it makes your arm sore and can cause minor aches and pains from your body producing antibodies to protect you from the influenza virus. Another reason is that people do not like change and being told what to do.
Why I take the Flu Shot?
I take it because it is required for me to keep my job. However, I feel it is effective and works, just like other childhood vaccine, such as the MMR and chicken pox vaccine. At my job I encounter many patients who are very sick (many with the flu who do not know yet) and I have not been infected with the flu because of the flu shot. In addition, I care about my patients and do not want to give them this nasty virus. Furthermore, the research shows that increasing the number vaccinated with the flu shot decreases the spread of the flu.