Flu Vaccine Objections and Work Termination: Exploring the Issues

Many healthcare providers across the country now require that their employees receive flu vaccinations in order to work. This has led to an overall increase in the number of workers receiving the vaccine each season. According to the CDC, "Early season flu vaccination coverage was higher among health care personnel whose employers required (85.8%) or recommended (68.4%) that they be vaccinated, compared to those whose employer did not have a policy or recommendation regarding flu vaccination (43.4%)."1

In theory, making these flu vaccines mandatory is meant to safeguard the wellbeing of patients and avoid large-scale spread of the illness. While the intention is good, mandatory flu vaccine policies raise serious questions about personal freedoms, discrimination, and constitutional rights. Here are answers to some of the most common questions on the subject:

someone being given a vaccine

Why Are Mandatory Flu Vaccines Becoming More Common?

On what basis would anyone presume to tell you what to do with your body? Health care providers claim that they are requiring vaccination in the interest of public safety. The theory is that if a healthcare worker contracts the flu, he or she is more likely to pass it on to others, especially patients, spreading the disease quickly. Senior citizens and those with weakened immune systems are far more likely to contract the flu than young, healthy adults and are also in the most danger if they do contract it. Since many patients are elderly and/or have weakened immune systems, these providers argue that failing to vaccinate will lead to far more fatalities than would otherwise occur.

To a degree, this stance makes sense; however, as there are precautions that can be taken to drastically reduce the risk of spreading the virus, these providers' insistence on vaccinations and policy of termination for refusal is unfair.

Are Exceptions Ever Made?

nurse looking at chartExceptions generally fall in to one of three categories: medical, religious, and conscientious. The employer is legally required to provide a reasonable accommodation if possible, which usually involves wearing a mask while in proximity with patients. Many employers, however, violate the law by disallowing exemptions or refusing to provide any accommodation.

Some employers are completely overreaching and requiring masks even where workers rarely or never come in contact with patients. For instance, there was recently a case in which three workers declined to get vaccinated and were suspended and likely to be fired for their refusal. The thing that made this case particularly troublesome was that, though their company does run nursing homes, they worked in a separate corporate office and were never required to interact with patients. It is completely baffling, if the purpose of mandatory flu vaccination is to protect patients, why office workers who have no patient contact are required to be vaccinated or otherwise wear a mask. This should not be the case.

Is the Vaccine 100% Effective?

To add insult to injury, these people are being fired for refusing something that only decreases the risk of contracting the flu, but does not provide full immunization. Each year's flu vaccine is different and only protects against what doctors predict will be the most common strains of the disease. If they are wrong, the vaccine is nearly ineffective. Even when doctors guess right, other strains still exist and can still make you sick, they are simply less common.

Can I Seek Legal Recourse?

Schorr & Associates, P.C. can assist you in getting exempted, taking action to protect your job, or getting compensation for you if you have lost your job because of a refusal to obtain a mandatory flu vaccine. Call or contact us today if you are facing disciplinary action for refusing a vaccination.

Sources:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/healthcareworkers.htm

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