In the midst of the flu season, many hospitals and health centers have required all of their employees, including nurses, to get a flu shot or flu vaccination. They must get the flu shot or be forced to leave their jobs. Some people think it should be necessary for all nurses to get flu shots, especially because flu vaccines are recommended to the public so often. It seems that if the public is being recommended so heavily that the flu shot should be taken, that nursing staff should also be getting the flu shot. Here are the various justifications on both sides of the argument of whether or not nurses should be forced or required to get the flu shot.
The argument: Flu shots should be mandatory for nurses.
Some have argued that flu shots should be mandatory for nurses. Here are the top four arguments for making flu vaccines mandatory for nursing staff.
#1 – Public confidence
For the public to truly feel confident in the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, much of the public would enjoy knowing that all hospital staff is not only required to have the flu vaccine but also wants to get the flu shot.
#2 – Staff flu risk
If many people that are part of the hospital staff didn’t get the flu shot, other health care professionals would be at an increased risk of getting the flu. Not only does this increase the chance of staff getting the flu, but it also increased the risk of spreading the flu to other hospital staff members.
#3 – Patient risk and safety
If nurses and other hospital staff didn’t get the flu shot, not only would other hospital staff be at an increased risk, but patients would be at a much higher risk for getting the flu as well. Even a mild case of the flu among even just one nurse could spread to dozens or even hundreds of patients in one day. The less hospital staff that receives the flu shot greatly increases the risk for patient safety.
#4 – Flu vaccine effectiveness
According to infection control programs, the flu vaccine works about 70% of the time. This means that getting the flu shot can reduce the risk of others getting the flu by 70% or more. With that much of a reduction in the chance of getting the flu, this also means that the individuals who receive the flu shot will also not be able to spread the flu to others, including other hospital staff and patients.
The argument: Flu shots should be optional for nurses.
Some have argued that flu shots should be entirely optional for nurses and other hospital staff. Here are the top three reasons why.
#1 – Setting a precedent
If the precedent for medical staff is forcing or creating mandatory flu shots, this could eventually lead to forced vaccinations for the public. If this happened, there would be big changes to a patient’s right to refuse medical treatments that they don’t agree with.
#2 – Some find flu shots unnecessary
Many healthy individuals who have contracted the flu never experienced the adverse effects of the flu. This leaves them with a natural immunity to the virus without the need of a flu vaccine.
#3 – Side effects of the flu vaccine could be worse than the flu
Receiving the flu vaccine can increase the risk of contracting various syndromes like the Guillain-Barre syndrome. Other research has also indicated that the “Fluvax” flu vaccine can cause two or more times as many seizure hospitalizations, which can give much worse health effects than the flu itself.
Should nurses and other hospital staff be required to get the flu shot? This subject and argument has been argued by both sides, and while some hospitals are forcing flu vaccinations to their staff, many are leaving the choice to the individual.
There are alternatives to forcing nurses and other hospital staff to get the flu shot:
Hand washing: Keeping clean hands throughout a nurse’s shift is the best way to not only decrease the spread of the flu but is also the best way to keep from spreading other diseases and sicknesses to other staff and patients.
Masks: To avoid receiving the flu from sick patients as well as avoid spreading the flu to other patients and staff, wearing airborne disease prevention masks can help greatly.
Patient isolation: Keeping sick patients with the flu isolated from other patients and medical staff is also a great way to keep the flu from spreading among the public.
These alternatives can greatly decrease the onset and spread of the flu and have been used by many hospitals and nursing units.