New York: Get a flu shot, or get fired.

15 10 2009

I’m not sure if this kind of mandate has been rolled out across the country, but here in New York, we were told, up front, that the entire hospital staff was required to get a flu shot this year (and the swine flu shot as well when it comes out) OR face termination.  Fired over a flu shot?  I thought Cleveland Clinic’s anti-smoking policy was pushing it…

There have already been talks of protests and law suits here in Albany.  Personally, I’m indifferent, but I guess I can see their point- being forced into doing something they otherwise would not have done, but is it worth a law suit?  Probably not.

I’ve heard a few different explanations for dissent.  Perhaps the most interesting reasoning I’ve heard is this- because the flu shot is offered for free or reduced cost by the drug companies, the companies are protected from litigation if a patient is injured as a direct result of the vaccination.  Another question to be asked would be, “Does the punishment fit the crime?”  Is termination the proper penalty for not receiving a shot?  They require house staff to be up to date on their vaccinations, after all.  So is that any different?  I suppose.  Can you fire an employee for poor hygiene?  Either of my examples could perceivably place patients at risk, but it’s not clear to me that either of these would be enforced.  Finally, do ALL employees really need the shot, even those with no patient contact?  As a pathologist, I did ask myself that question.  Sure we have some patient contact, and we surely have contact with other employees that do have contact with patients, so I suppose the idea is to cover all your bases and just vaccinate everyone.

In the end, it seems clear to me that the New York State government has gotten swept up in the media craze surrounding the H1N1 virus, which, as a concept is sad, but in practice is probably better for everyone in the long run.  I do wonder, however, if we will be required to get our flu shots next year too… 😉

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