Flu shots for medical workers: Support a national mandate.
To: National Vaccine Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the United States each year. It sends a further 200,000 to the hospital for respiratory illnesses and heart conditions. The need for healthcare professionals to be immunised against influenza has been acknowledged by your committee. However...…
Influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the United States each year. It sends a further 200,000 to the hospital for respiratory illnesses and heart conditions. The need for healthcare professionals to be immunised against influenza has been acknowledged by your committee. However your goal of 90% compliance is a very long way from being achieved. In 2009/2010 only 63.5% were immunised. There are many facilities throughout the nation where the compliance is much lower. Everywhere the risk of vulnerable patients contracting the flu from medical workers is unacceptable.
In the face of this there is a large and growing movement in opposition to vaccines in the media and on the internet. This movement has found footholds among nurses, midwives and other health professionals. It is actively working to reduce compliance where compliance is voluntary and is resisting attempts to make vaccination mandatory at facilities that attempt to implement such a policy.
We believe that the rights of the patient to not be exposed to the flu at his or her most vulnerable time take precedence over a worker's right to make up his or her own mind about whether or not to have a flu shot. We request that you revise your recommendations to include a national mandate for all healthcare workers whose work involves patient contact to be immunised against influenza as part of the terms of their employment.
We recognise that there will inevitably be those who will be exempt from this policy. Therefore we further request a national policy that permits patients to specify that they do not wished to be treated by unvaccinated workers, and that those workers be required to wear masks during flu season.
Currently patients do not know if they risk being exposed to the flu by the very people who are taking care of them. With a national mandate in place our most vulnerable will know that they do not face the unreasonable and unnecessary risk of a deadly disease.
468 people signed the petition
"The idea that a pregnant woman can enter a hospital and deliver a baby in a place where employees aren't required to take every step possible to guard against a preventable disease ... I just think that many people would be stunned by that."
- Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health.
From the 1600s to the 1800s childbed fever was at epidemic proportions. Up to 40% of women at some hospitals contracted it and it was often fatal. Late in the 1800s it was discovered that it was the doctors themselves who were responsible. By not washing their hands between patients they were actively transmitting the bacteria that caused Puerperal fever (childbed fever) from woman to woman. After that discovery healthcare workers started to wash their hands and a significant part of modern medicine came into being.
Flu shots have become the modern day equivalent of hand washing. Just as the practice of hand washing was resisted by health workers (indeed hand hygiene is still inadequate at many facilities) there is a lot of resistance to the flu vaccine. Heath workers should understand the importance of vaccination better than most of us, but only 63.5% were vaccinated last flu season.
It is unacceptable for healthcare workers to take unnecessary risks with the lives of their patients. The very nature of their employment argues against it. And yet many healthcare workers either neglect to get their flu shots or actively choose not to get them. The price of this negligence and/or intransigence is that more people under their care contract influenza. Since people under care are often unable to receive flu shots or are too old for flu shots to be effective, the outcome is that more people die or become seriously ill.
This petition will be forwarded to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. They issued a draft proposal at the beginning of this year about their plans to increase Influenza vaccine coverage to 90% by 2020. The draft can be found here: http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/nvac/subgroups/nvac_adult_immunization_work_group.pdf. The recommendations included one that says facilities that cannot achieve this by other means should strongly consider mandating flu shots. This petition asks that this be amended to propose a national mandate that would apply to all health professionals. It further asks that patients be given the right to opt-out of being treated by anyone who is not vaccinated.
By signing this petition you are taking a stand for your children, parents, yourself and your community. No one should catch the flu from their doctor or nurse. It is not necessary. Most healthcare workers understand this. A national mandate will immediately raise compliance and will protect many thousands of people who are today facing unnecessary risk.
A story from PBS News Hour points out that "the virus can be transmitted to patients by both symptomatic and asymptomatic health care providers. One in four health care workers shows evidence of having the flu each year. And 70 percent of them continue to work despite having flu-like symptoms." This is dangerous and senseless.
We need a national mandate.
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