Should a nurse who declines a flu shot lose their job? Some hospitals say “Yes.” For example, Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital recently fired 8 nurses for refusing the flu shot. But, is it fair for a nurse to lose their job over a vaccine? Should they be mandatory?
Hospital spokeswoman Melanie McDonald thinks so – she says the vaccine is necessary for patient safety. That’s because influenza has the highest death rate of any preventable disease.
In fact, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all strongly recommend the flu vaccine for healthcare workers so, a lot of hospitals across North America are requiring all workers to get the shot.
So, why are nurses refusing to get one? Dr. William Schaffner is a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and he says that nurses have traditionally been a tough group to sell on the vaccine. That’s because a lot of them believe invalid research like that the flu shot causes the flu. And nurses, like a lot of people, say they’re scared of needles – or believe there could be neurological effects from a preservative used in the vaccine.
Even though no scientific studies prove there’s a problem. In fact, Schaffner says, quote "I cannot think of a reason for any health care professional to decline a flu shot that's valid."
But when nurses refuse to get shots, it makes a lot of regular folks wonder: “If someone with medical training would rather get fired than get a flu shot, is it safe for me and my family?” Experts say yes, including those from the American Nurses Association. In fact, they strongly recommend all healthcare workers be vaccinated. That’s because flu-related complications, like pneumonia, kill nearly 40,000 people a year, and hospitalize 200,000 in the U.S. alone. And hospital patients are especially vulnerable to flu complications because their bodies are already weakened.