Hospitals Frown On Workers Who Refuse Flu Shots

It’s perfectly legal for patients to refuse a flu shot. But what about doctors and nurses? US hospitals are cracking down on employees who won’t get flu shots, and some workers in Indiana have lost their jobs over it.

Carrie Calhoun, a longtime nurse in suburban Chicago, was fired last month after she refused to accept flu shots:

“Where does it say that I am no longer a patient if I’m a nurse.”

According to Daily Journal, hospitals’ new measures are the result of an earlier-than-usual flu season which is widespread in most states and has left at least 20 children dead.

In the past two months, according to affected workers, hospital authorities, and published reports, at least 15 hospital staffers in four states have been fired for refusing the shot, and others have resigned.

In Rhode Island, quite a few hundred workers have signed a petition in opposition to the policy. Why would people whose job it is to protect sick patients refuse it? The reasons vary: rare allergies; religious beliefs; and skepticism about whether it will make any difference in the patients, says WTRF.

Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization, says:

“We would all like to see stronger data.”

But other evidence shows flu vaccination “significantly decreases” flu cases, she said, adding:

“It should work the same in a health care worker versus somebody out in the community.”

Flu shots

Caplan, medical ethics chief at Langone Medical Center in New York, says:

“If you don’t want to do it, you shouldn’t work in that environment. Patients should demand that their health care provider gets flu shots – and they should ask them.”

It’s really a debate between prevention and free will, and there may be legal consequences if it goes too far.