AAP: all healthcare workers should have mandatory flu vaccine

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a policy statement strongly recommending that all health-care workers be vaccinated for influenza and that this vaccination should be mandatory across-the-board. The authors of the policy come from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, and they feel that healthcare workers often exhibit a double standard.  By demanding that their patients be vaccinated, yet refusing to do so themselves. Increasing vaccination rates among healthcare workers is the key, but real numbers have been less than expected– have averaged about 30% with a minor spike in numbers last year thanks to the H1N1 scare at around 61% vaccinated.

The policy states that all health-care workers have the “ethical and professional obligation to be immunized”, however this does walk a fine line when you consider individual civil liberties. While health-care workers certainly are on the front line of many illnesses, it should be a persons individual right to decide whether or not they would like to be vaccinated.

“Mandatory influenza immunization for all healthcare personnel is ethically justified, necessary, and long overdue to ensure patient safety,” the authors wrote online ahead of the October print issue of Pediatrics

According to the study, the committee has been working with the CDC for guidance and still recommend across the board vaccination–calling it a “patient safety issue“.  Pediatricians feel that health care workers are negligent by not being vaccinated. The Joint Commission states vaccination rates of 80% or higher are necessary to prevent the spread of the disease. However with about one third of health care workers being vaccinated, these numbers are not near the recommended level. The main reason health care workers cited for not being vaccinated were related directly to the side effects of the flu shot and the development of flu like symptoms after the vaccine.

Issues with mandatory vaccination are neither new or different. There have been multiple attempts over the course of recent years to force all healthcare workers and  other populations to receive vaccines.

“Despite this reality, implementation of mandatory influenza immunization programs for healthcare personnel continues to be controversial to some who argue that a mandatory program violates civil liberties,” said the study authors.

Many healthcare workers choose not to take the flu vaccine simply because not only do they fear symptoms of the shot, but also because they feel that they know their bodies best and can make their own health care decisions– not because they are choosing to be negligent or because they voluntarily want to expose their patients to influenza on the job.  This is a classic example of “do as I say, not as I do.”

The AAP is looking for no excuse when it comes to this new recommendation. The Academy has developed guidance tools and resources to help guide mandatory vaccination programs and they are doing everything in their power to encourage, and to sway the healthcare field to their side. By providing the resources, they are hoping that hospitals, clinics and other health care venues will come on board and make the shot mandatory. No doubt they will be met with opposition and many hard-headed medical workers who feel they know themselves and will refuse–and they have the right to do so, but at what expense?

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