Time to mandate influenza vaccination in health-care workers

(If you're not yet a fan, join us now by clicking the Like button)

We are happy to promote Dr. Arthur’s Caplan’s recent Lancet article on the importance of mandating flu vaccines for health care workers.

As Dr. Caplan, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, notes, “Rates of influenza vaccination in health-care workers have averaged well under 50% for the past decade in many hospitals and long-term care facilities in the USA and in other nations.” This dismal rate is highly problematic, he explains, in large part because vaccination of doctors and nurses plays such a crucial role in protecting patients from infection, illness, and death, especially among children, the elderly, and those who are immuno-compromised.

Yet no amount of coaxing or reasoning has convinced the majority of health-care workers to get themselves vaccinated. All of which leads Dr. Caplan to ask an important question: “Given the failure of voluntary vaccination strategies and the dangers low vaccination rates present to vulnerable patients, shouldn’t all health-care workers be required to be vaccinated against influenza and other communicable diseases as a condition of their employment?”
The answer, of course, is yes — absolutely. “It is time,” says Dr. Caplan, “to make clear what the ethical reasons are for requiring vaccination and then to get a mandate in place in all health-care institutions and clinics.” And Dr. Caplan offers just such clarity in his op-ed, not the least of which are the following points:

[E]very code of ethics adopted by physicians, nurses, nurses aides, social workers, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals states very clearly, succinctly, and loftily that the interests of patients must come ahead of anyone else’s…Whatever one’s views about personal rights to choose, unless a valid medical reason exists to not vaccinate, the best interests of the patient trumps personal choice in the hierarchy of self-imposed professional values.

“Mandates do work,” Dr. Caplan writes. At the University of Pennsylvania’s health-care system, where vaccination is mandatory, he reports that vaccination rates are now greater than 98 percent. Underscoring the need for such a policy on a national level, he concludes: “It is time to acknowledge professional duty and make influenza vaccination of health-care workers a mandatory obligation.

Click here for full article

Comments are closed.