As hospital healthcare professionals, we stand at the frontline of patient care of very sick patients. Our patients include those with cancer struggling with an infection, patients on the ventilator with sepsis and the list goes on. Where does personal liberty end and responsibility to our patients begin? Eight employees were just fired from Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital in Goshen, Indiana for refusing the flu vaccine.
“As a hospital and health system, our top priority is and should be patient safety, and we know that hospitalized people with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk for illness and death from the flu,” explained hospital spokeswoman Melanie McDonald to the Elkhart Truth. “The flu has the highest death rate of any vaccine preventable disease, and it would be irresponsible from our perspective for health care providers to ignore that.”
Amen and amen.
First do no harm reminds the health care providers that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit.
What about the harm of possibly transmitting the flu virus to a patient? Yes, there is an argument that the flu vaccine doesn't always cover every strand of flu of the current year, but even in my case this year I was the one in my home that did NOT get the flu. My husband and son were not vaccinated and they tested positive for Influenza A. I know it's not always effective, but this year the going percentage I am hearing is 60% effective. That is significant.
Among those who do have symptoms when they get flu, they may be shedding the virus up to 24 hours before the onset of symptoms.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) became the latest organization to issue a policy promoting mandatory immunization against influenza for health care workers, with exemptions for health reasons. In July and August, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) toughened its policy on flu vaccination for health care workers by removing an exemption for religious reasons and specifying that annual vaccination should be a condition of employment in health care settings and/or a requirement to receive professional privileges. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America adopted a similar policy. In November 2009, the National Patient Safety Foundation had voiced its support for mandatory vaccination of health care workers.
My stance? If you refuse the flu vaccine and work in a hospital, find another job. You are putting your patients at risk. Egg allergy? Read this.