WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Declining to get her annual flu vaccination, a nurse was fired at a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
- The nurse was initially granted a religious exemption when she started working at the hospital, but due to company changes, her request was denied.
- Aside from being a mandatory policy in over 60 percent of hospitals, vaccination is the best way to prevent transmission and saves lives as well.
News of a nurse being fired at a hospital in Missouri for refusing to get her flu shot in compliance with the hospital’s policy ignited protest, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The nurse was reportedly granted a religious exemption from the annual flu vaccine shot when she started working with St. Anthony’s Medical Center prior to its acquisition by Mercy South Hospital. However, the exemption was later declined by the new company, says Nelia Aubuchon, a protest organizer and a friend of the nurse who was not publicly identified.
Out of its 44,000 employees, 170 requests for medical or religious exemptions have so far been received by the company since its flu shot policy implementation several years ago. Although most were granted, those whose requests were denied were informed this week, the hospital says in a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle.
Besides it being a condition of employment, compliance by Mercy co-workers is a critical step to protecting and ensuring the safety of their patients, colleagues, and the community, the statement continues. In addition, it also states: “Protection against the flu virus saves lives, especially those of our most vulnerable patients.”
Health care workers are also specifically recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get an annual flu shot, among other vaccines. Despite varying policies, most medical facilities implement policies that strongly promote the flu vaccine especially for people who are in direct contact with patients.
As of 2017, more than 60 percent of hospitals already have a mandatory policy according to Amesh A. Adalja, MD, infectious disease expert and John Hopkins senior scholar.
Its goals are simple: “Medical facilities want to make sure that their employees are highly vaccinated not only to prevent them from getting infected and infecting others, but also a way of decreasing absenteeism from people who are getting sick as well.”
With regards to religious exemptions used as a reason to refuse a shot, Adalja says these “tend to be bogus and an excuse for people to avoid vaccination. Eventually, these policies are in place for a reason.
Health care providers should definitely get vaccinated and recognize the risks involved for patients, Adalja continues. He went on to say that it’s surprising that health care providers have to be told of this, when in fact these have been taught in school.
“The flu is not a benign illness. The only way we have of stopping transmission is through vaccination,” he says.