Hospital Employees Who Decline Flu Shots Risk Losing Jobs

As hospitals struggle with an especially dire flu season, more organizations are taking tougher stances against employees who refuse flu vaccinations, according to a Miami Herald/Associated Press report.

At least 15 nurses and other hospital employees have been fired in the past two months after refusing flu shots, according to the report, and several other employees have resigned over the matter.

Short of firing, other hospitals are implementing infection control measures designed to incentivize vaccinations. At Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill., employees who refuse vaccines must wear masks. One nurse called the practice "discriminatory" in the report and said patients are hesitant to receive care from a masked nurse.

For this flu season, vaccinations among healthcare personnel were highest among pharmacists (89 percent), physicians (84 percent), nurses (82 percent) and nurse practitioners/physician assistants (73 percent). Flu vaccination was lowest among administrative staff at 55 percent.

Employees may refuse flu shots for a range of reasons, including allergies to the vaccine, religious objections and skepticism about vaccinations, according to the report.

Art Caplan, PhD, medical ethics chief at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said employees' obligations to protect patients' health overrides their individual rights, according to the report. "If you don't want to do it, you shouldn't work in that environment," he said in the report.

More Articles on Hospitals and Flu Shots:

Flu Outbreak 2013: How Are Hospitals Coping?
Rise in Flu Cases Contributes to ED Crowding
CDC Reports Increased Flu Rates Across U.S.

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