Flu Vaccinations: It’s a Jab or Your Job

Alice Park writes in Time:

At Winthrop hospital on New York’s Long Island, the signs are everywhere. They’re posted at every nurses’ station, papered above the security panels against which employees swipe their ID cards and even attached to paychecks. The notices are there to remind the hospital’s staff — which includes everyone from the doctors and nurses who care for patients to the administrative, housekeeping and food-service personnel — that every employee must be vaccinated against both seasonal and H1N1 flu or face possible termination.

The mandate comes from the health department of New York, which over the summer became the first state to require that all health-care workers be vaccinated against influenza. In other states, individual hospitals have taken the same aggressive position. Given that the pandemic H1N1 strain is circulating the globe — and that one of the seasonal-flu strains is resistant to Tamiflu, a commonly used antiviral treatment — such a policy seems logical. But is it legal? Flu-vaccine requirements are being challenged by health-care workers who maintain that decisions about vaccination should be theirs and theirs alone. In the state of Washington, the State Nurses Association, which in general supports vaccinations, is suing a local health system over its decision to make the flu shot a condition of employment, while dozens of New Yorkers went to the state capital in September to protest the new immunization ultimatum.

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