Essentia Health fired 50 of its employees because they refused to get the flu shot, as part of a growing trend from healthcare provides for mandatory worker vaccination. Essentia argued that the move was required in order not to infect its patients.
The hospital chain’s workers can infect patients with the flu virus especially when those patients have weak immune systems like seniors, HIV patients, and preemies.
Patients are in the hospital because they are sick,
Essentia’s safety officer Dr. Rajesh Prabhu said.
Prabhu argued that these sick patients can die from the flu.
In the U.S., around 4,000 to 5,000 people die after being infected with the flu virus. The pharma industry advises people to get their flu shots even though the flu shot’s effectiveness is on average 40%, according to CDC numbers.
U.S. vaccination rates currently sit at around 65%, even though the CDC recommends that people without a pre-existing allergy to the shot get the vaccine. Essentia argued that only by forcing people into getting the shot, immunization rates can get up.
Immunization Rates Could Go Up if Flu Shot Is Mandatory
A CDC analysis shows:
- When the vaccine is mandatory, immunization at the workplace is 85 percent.
- If there is no mandate, only 43 percent get the flu shot.
Several legislators push for making vaccines mandatory at a state level. States could be forced to make public their vaccination rates if one such proposal becomes a law. In Maryland, there is already a database showing vaccination rates among healthcare providers.
In Minnesota, where Essentia workers are forced into immunization, there is no state mandate for vaccination. However, Essentia thinks the decision could help keep its patients safe.
The group said that from 2012 to 2015, vaccination rates climbed to 70% but that was “not good enough”. In 2016, all workers were forced to get the vaccine which upped vaccination rates to 82%. The hospital said that there is still room for improvement.
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