Mandatory Flu Shots (Survey)

The Rhode Island Dept. of Health has made it mandatory for all health workers to get a flu shot.    One union is suing over this.   This is interesting stuff. The health department states it “has a legitimate interest in preventing the spread of influenza through health care workers with direct patient contact at licensed health care facilities”.  Agreed.  I mean we healthcare workers are right in the line of fire and we see a ton of patients who come through.   By the time our symptoms appear we have already infected a bunch of people.   Besides, most docs will work through their illness.  So should we be forced to get immunized?  I, personally, know so many doctors who won’t.   On the other end, the SEIU Healthcare Employees Union also has a point.  They support voluntary flu shots for health care employees but workers should not be forced to take the vaccine. “The single principle of medicine is that you don’t force people to take medicine,” a union spokesperson said.  So does freedom override this epidemic issue?  Most of you are in the healthcare field, answer the question below to tell me what you think:

[poll id=’7′]

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  19 comments for “Mandatory Flu Shots (Survey)

  1. big picture doc
    January 17, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Here’s what you do. Get homeopathic oscillococcinum, now widely available. You carry it with you at all times, and at the very first sign of flu, you take it. Problem solved for most people, and no mercury gets injected into you, and you don’t have to worry about guillain barre. I have never had a flu shot in my 62 years on this planet and I never will. I had very early flu symptoms this year, and the oscillo worked within hours. I’m all for prevention, but we have to be smart and truly informed about it. [Truth is that flu shots are not all that effective] P.S. Yes, I always wash my hands.

  2. tom walsh
    January 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Wouldn’t it be easier to give them masks? We are talking about trained people here. It’s easy to say “Fire them” but then you have to train their successors, a costly endeavor. Masks and latex (or other similar) gloves would solve the problem.

  3. Linda Spencer
    January 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Health clinics have a higher proportion of elderly, extremely young, and/or immunocompromised “clients” than other public facilities. They deserve protection to a reasonable extent, including a non-contagious professional staff. The health care workers have the freedom to look for a job that doesn’t require a flu vaccine to protect the patients.

  4. Robert Bosl, MD
    January 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Regarding the attached picture, what kind of injection are they giving (see syringe & needle size) and exactly where is it being given (doesn’t look like deltoid).

    • Stacy RN
      January 23, 2013 at 8:05 am

      I was wondering the same thing.

      Oh, by the way, I started getting my flu shot the year after I got the flu (and was out of work for over a week), and have now had the shot every year for three years. The first problem with the shot arose this year when the LPN who administered my shot failed to wash his hands, did not wear gloves, must have inadvertently touched the needle and I ended up with an infection in my arm. I’ll still get the vaccine next year, but someone different will administer it.

  5. Maria in Oregon
    January 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

    No one should be forced to have any kind of invasive procedure. An injection is invasive. Hand washing is the best answer. And patients can choose not to see providers who are not vaccinated. I have never had a flu shot. I have rarely been sick. I don’t like needles, but I wash my hands. Simple.

  6. M. Lipe
    January 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

    We have seen our freedoms erode drastically in our lifetime and the field of medicine is, perhaps, the premiere example of this. We should each take responsibility to practice in a manner that keeps our patients’ best interests in mind but resist mandates of any kind, good or bad, as the overall effect has been detrimental to our profession.

  7. Midwife
    January 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

    And here is another. Is this enough of a difference to require mandatory vaccinations?

    http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults

    Personally, I don’t think so. There is much more evidence to support hand washing for prevention of influenza and many other illnesses, so it seems more reasonable to support mandatory handwashing.

  8. Midwife
    January 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Let’s look to the evidence. Here is one article from Cochrane. Maybe some other folks could post other articles.

    http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD005187/influenza-vaccination-for-healthcare-workers-who-work-with-the-elderly

  9. Bill
    January 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

    You didn’t get your flu shot.. You then give me the flu.
    Now, while doing nothing wrong, I’m suffering an illness that perhaps I wouldn’t have otherwise. SO, when did your rights supersede mine? Our rights stop, where others’ rights begin.

    • Neurodoc
      January 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Such an interesting topic and discussion so far. Here are some of my opinions:

      1) The flu shot does have epidemiological benefits. It isn’t guaranteed to prevent flu in any individual, but it often does and when it does not it can reduce flu severity. This benefits society as a whole (decreased flu burden on a population, less time off work, less expense treating flu and its complications, etc.). These are statistical (population) benefits that make it a “cost beneficial” medical intervention. What’s not to like?

      2) There are potential risks to the individual. Local injection site reactions, infections, etc. are typical for the nature of the intervention (an IM injection). Then there are more serious potential problems. The most serious of these is a Guillain-Barre type reaction, entirely unpredictable. It’s quite rare. I’ve seen only two cases in my 25 years of practicing medicine. Both patients died. I suppose an epidemiologist or heathcare bureaucrat would say that the very low risks are worth the benefit to society. The patient lying in an ICU bed on a ventilator three weeks after getting a “routine” flu shot might have a different opinion.

      3) At least you couldn’t blame him for giving you the flu because he didn’t accept his flu shot!

      4) There are other very effective things healthcare providers can do to prevent infecting their patients with the flu (should they become infected themselves). Scrupulous hand-washing, gloving up, and wearing an N95 mask are very effective. Indeed, putting an N95 mask on all flu patients would be a good and cost effective way to help prevent them from infecting providers and other patients.

      5) I’m sure that a lot of the impetus for “mandatory” flu vaccination for providers comes from folks concerned about potential medicolegal liability (e.g. to hospitals)from folks like Bill looking to sue them for “wrongful” flu infection. Their solution is to demand their employees get a flu shot. Some of these employers even go so far as to demand that those employees who refuse the shot sign a refusal form that specifies that the employee was warned, not so much about the risk of his getting the flu so much as his risk of getting the flu and passing it on to some patient… If I were given such a form to sign, I would insist that it be expanded to include language that makes it clear that the hospital administration would be responsible to me for any side effects I might suffer from the “mandatory” flu shot. This, I am quite sure, is something that the hospital administrators and their legal counsel would not be eager to accept.

      6) Though it’s not directly relevant to this discussion of mandating provider flu shots, allegedly to “protect” patients, I have to question the apparent attitudinal differences between this Public Health recommendation and the Public Health recommendations regarding how providers should deal with other infectious diseases, such as HIV.

  10. Anesthesia Doc
    January 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

    If they have the right to refuse the flu shot, then their employers should have the right to replace them with workers who will take it.

    We should also add teachers and other people who are at high risk for spreading influenza to the list of people who must get the shot. It’s a public health matter.

  11. ghd
    January 16, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Retail workers, bank tellers, secretaries, some lawyers, delivery men, etc. Guess half the population should be required. Oh yes, all those Medicare and Medicaid patients too since the govt is paying for their care. Don’t want to leave any citizen out.

  12. D. Thomas
    January 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

    we require handwashing to prevent the spread of disease why shouldn’t hospitals and other providers require flu shots to prevent the spread of disease. Get off the bandwagon of personal freedon or never stop at another red light.

  13. korompai
    January 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Getting a flu shot may be made a condition of employment. My name tag has a different colored frame yearly as I get immunized. No frame, no entry into pt care area.

  14. Kurt Klauburg, DO
    January 16, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I agree with Dr. Grobman, however, this is a free country and we all have freedom of choice. What is next, anyone with a psychiatric diagnosis must prove they take their medication in order to continue working? Forcible treatment in any other situation must be accompanied by a court order from a judge!

  15. Andy
    January 16, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Do no harm. Get the flu shot.

    • January 16, 2013 at 8:38 am

      The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

      • Marc
        January 17, 2013 at 9:34 am

        public health benefit trumps personal choice !

Comments are closed.