Accepting a mandatory flu vaccine has always bothered me. Personally, it frustrates me because of the many ethical and health-related questions. It’s interesting that nurses are actually pretty divided on this issue. A large and vocal majority
The flu is a terrible sickness to have. The risk of pandemic flu is a terrifying thought for most. If our global populations were to experience anything like the 1918 flu pandemic, it would certainly have drastic and deadly consequences.
For some people (elderly, small children, or immune compromised) just having an individual experience with the flu be deadly. Even now thousands die of the flu every year. Because of this, many healthcare facilities have to take the proactive approach of mandating employees to receive flu vaccines. After all, if you have received an immunization you’re less likely to get sick yourself, require time off, or spread the sickness to your already impaired patients.
But there are many that feel that forcing employees to receive vaccinations is a misuse of power. There are some that even feel that this is a misuse of authority and a violation of human rights. Consider that for some, a flu vaccine can be harmful, a mandatory flu vaccine doesn’t seem like something an employer should have the power to enforce, even in a right to work state.
Reasons Why Mandatory Flu Vaccines are Bad Policy
My friend Beth Boynton over at Confident Voices has outlined 6 reasons why she thinks mandating Flu Vaccinations is a BAD Policy for Patients and Nurses.
Here are a few of her examples:
2. Healthcare workers infected with HIV, Hepatitis, and possibly other contagious diseases, known and unknown are among us.
3. To allow nurses the right to refuse b/c of religious beliefs, but not personal and educated preference seems archaic to me and actually supports a hierarchical way of thinking rather than the kind of educated empowerment that healthcare professionals, consumers, and systems can all benefit from.
4. The policy does nothing to eliminate the spreading of the flu from visitors, (do we require all visitors to be vaccinated and if so, when as the vaccine won’t be effective for roughly 2 weeks)?
Is Herd Immunity Enough?
While I can personally see the value in the herd immunity that flu vaccinations can provide, I do get concerned by the false sense of security that they sometimes offer.
Many nurses and patients alike believe that if they receive a flu vaccine that they are completely protected from getting the flu. In reality that is not at all true. The flu vaccine is a best a “guess” at which strains of the flu might impact on a yearly basis. Being vaccinated does not protect you from other strains and it may lead some to take fewer precautions than they might otherwise.
I am also personally concerned with how we are decreasing our bodies natural ability to fight infection. It seems we are more and more often using medicine to answer questions that mother nature can combat herself. Just like a martial artist who requires constant training and focus, the human body needs the opportunity to build up immunities natural and keep our natural defenses in tip-top shape.
The chances that we could be a victim of pandemic flu are continually on the rise. If forcing immunizations are what it takes to prevent a global catastrophe, then so be it. I just really hope that we don’t accidentally create Zombies in the process.
What are your thoughts? Does your employer require a mandatory flu vaccine? Do you think it’s more helpful or harmful to overall flu prevention?