Rethinking Healthcare

Flu shots for everyone and for medical pros make it mandatory

Flu shots for everyone and for medical pros make it mandatory

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People scream bloody murder until the policy is before them, and then they go along.

Should your doctor be forced to get the flu shot or lose their job?

Experts think so.

The word expert is not political. The experts in question are the Infectious Disease Society of America and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Both groups signed off on a press release yesterday saying, in effect, that unless a medical professional has a medical reason for not getting the flu shot, refusal should be grounds for dismissal. Or not hiring you at all.

Harsh and, maybe, necessary. The CDC last spring found 38.1% of health care providers did not get the flu shot last year, and two-thirds refused protection against H1N1. Last year saw a record high for medical personnel vaccinations.

IDSA president Dr. Richard Whitley put it pretty bluntly:

"Vaccination of health care personnel saves patients' lives and reduces illness. It also protects the individual worker from falling ill during influenza outbreaks and from missing work, which further impacts patient care."

There are already moves afoot in the direction of mandating shots, the Los Angeles Times reports. SHEA President Dr. Neil Fishman says most of the opposition is much ado about nothing:

"I think there's a vocal minority that have protested, but if you look around the country, very few people have actually ended up losing their jobs over the policy [where it exists]. I think generally what I've seen is the policy is well accepted."

In other words, people scream bloody murder until the policy is before them, and then they go along. A Seattle medical center that made shots mandatory starting in 2005 got a 98% compliance rate.

Oh, and this year they're not just after your doctor. They're after you, too. The CDC says it has enough vaccine this year for everyone, so everyone should get the shot. The only exceptions are those under six months of age and those with egg allergies.

It's just one shot -- the H1N1 strain is now established enough to be incorporated into the single shot.

Vaccine opponents have not yet spoken up, but they seem to be under increased legal pressure worldwide. The most recent post at vaccine opponent Barbara Loe Fisher's blog is dated August 5, and involves pertussis and whooping cough vaccines, not the flu.

The most recent post by Dr. Joseph Mercola, another noted vaccine opponent, involves microwave ovens, not vaccines. Neither Dr. Kent Holtorf, who last year told Fox the vaccine was "more dangerous than swine flu,"  nor Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, who issued a video call against vaccinations last year, had commented as this was written.

The striking of MMR vaccine opponent Dr. Andrew Wakefield from the medical register in England should be unrelated, but it's possible it has had a chilling effect.

Not all the news on this front is good. CBS reports that GlaxoSmithKline is being investigated in Europe for possible problems with their swine flu vaccine, Pandemrix. The European regulators' release on the investigation emphasizes that nothing has been proven.

So is the flu vaccine controversy over? Let's see in the comments.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure