Published Online: January 22, 2013
The worse-than-normal flu season brings to the fore a troublesome issue for administrators at the nation's hospitals and physician offices: Should physicians, nurses and anyone else with direct exposure to patients be forced to get the annual influenza vaccine?
At first blush, the requirement seems like a no-brainer. If the first precept in medicine is “never do harm to anyone,” then facility managers would seem perfectly within their rights to insist that healthcare workers not be allowed to expose vulnerable patients to a potentially deadly virus. A 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found at least 400 hospitals make the flu vaccine a mandatory condition of continued employment. At least 29 have fired people who refused to comply for other than health or religious reasons. Other hospitals have insisted the unvaccinated wear masks at all times.
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