Parents who refuse to let their children have their childhood vaccines get a fair amount of attention from the press. The people who should get just as much, or more, coverage are the health care workers who refuse to get their flu shot. It’s bad enough they aren’t always washing their hands. (PDF, discussion of a three-year study to improve hand hygiene starts on p. 19, if your day isn’t exciting enough.)
There are no federal guidelines that require providers to get flu shots, but Paul Offit, M.D., Chief of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is not messing around:
“If you don’t want to get the vaccine, you have two weeks of unpaid leave to think about it, and if you still don’t want to get it, you’re fired.”
“Healthcare workers have a responsibility to their patients, and it is not their inalienable right to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection. It’s not their right to not be vaccinated,” Offit said.
Several years ago, a child with cancer “came into this hospital for care, but caught the influenza virus in this hospital and died from it,” he said. “She no doubt caught it from us.”
That’s a very clear statement of policy from Dr. Offit. Can workers wear a mask instead?
There’s no provision to let workers wear a mask instead, like many healthcare facilities allow, because he said, “masks aren’t particularly effective.”
There’s no mention of the policy for non-employee physicians at CHOP (winner of the worst acronym for a children’s hospital), but I can imagine Offit sneaking up on them with a needle and an alcohol swab.
Based on the article, CHOP is on the extreme end of enforcement, alas. The article also discusses the efficacy of masks in preventing flu transmission, religious/personal belief exemptions in hospitals and health care systems, what labor union National Nurses United has to say about immunizations, and other things you never see in an episode of ER.
As for those of us who receive, rather than give health care – don’t be shy about asking your health care providers if they’ve had their shots.
And make sure they wash their damn hands.