|Choice should be mandatory|
Across Colorado, hospitals are demanding all employees get flu shots or be fired. The choice pits the safety of sick patients who could die from a hospital-acquired case of influenza, against the rights of employees to refuse a shot. Nationally, flu contributes to anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is especially dangerous to already frail hospital patients.
In Colorado, at least 20 hospital employees in Colorado have lost their jobs since the beginning of flu season. It’s difficult to get an accurate count because most hospitals will not share personnel records. A Facebook page called “Colorado Healthcare Workers Against Forced Vaccination” has some 250 members, including a rehabilitation therapist, a chiropractor, a medical physicist and clerical staff. One wrote, “I was suspended, not actually fired, until the end of the ‘flu season,’ but the result is the same, no work, no paycheck.” Still, the hospitals’ requirements this season have resulted in tens of thousands of their staffers getting flu shots, far more than in previous years.
The wave of required vaccinations was set off after the state Board of Health reported that only 60 percent of Colorado health workers had flu vaccinations. Educating health care staff about the need for flu shots has not been working, said state public health director Joni Reynolds. In February the board adopted new requirements, specifying that 60 percent of healthcare workers in the state receive flu shots by the end of this year. That requirement will rise to 90 percent by 2014. However, many hospitals are insisting that 100 percent of their employees get the flu shot immediately. For most staffers, that means either obtaining the vaccination or getting an exemption for medical or religious reasons, and instead agreeing to wear a mask at work for months during the winter flu season at a time.
Vaccine Exemption Forms