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Can the flu shot save a healthcare professional’s job?

Posted on February 6th, 2013

After refusing to take a mandatory flu shot, an Indiana hospital has fired eight employees. Concern about the spreading influenza led to the hospital implementing a mandatory vaccination. However, this raises a new question – which is more important: employee rights or patient safety?

One of the nurses, Ethel Hoover, was an employee at the hospital for over twenty years before she was fired. Hoover stated that “For 21 years, I have religiously not taken the flu vaccine, and now you’re telling me that I believe in it.” She also noted that since it is her body, it should be her choice not to take it. After learning about the new vaccination mandate, Hoover filed two medical exemptions – a religious exemption and two appeals; all were denied.

The hospital said they implemented the mandate after recommendations from the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help promote patient safety. Ninety-five percent of the employees complied, leaving 1,300 that did not get the mandatory vaccine. However, only eight were fired.

The attorney representing several of the nurses stated that his clients had the right to refuse the vaccine. His grounds include that religious discrimination of employees is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Other voices, such as Dr. Damon Raskin, say that the flu is dangerous and can lead to pneumonia and death. He suggested that healthcare workers do an administrative job during flu season if their religious views conflict with the vaccine. Raskin also stated “It’s not fair to the patient. The people who are most at risk are in the hospital.”

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