About a decade ago, the topic of mandatory influenza vaccines for nurses came into the forefront of health care news. While nurses had long been trained on the importance of this vaccine, not all of them got the vaccine because they did not want to pay for it, forgot to get it during the flu season or did not believe that they were at increased risk for developing the flu or experiencing any complications from it.

However, increasing numbers of hospitals and health care organizations started requiring certain professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to have the vaccine or risk being fired. Although a huge majority of workers opted to get the vaccine rather than lose their jobs, some simply did not want to be forced and chose to leave their workplace.

Should Nurses and Other Health Care Workers Get the Flu Vaccine?

Today, the same questions continue to bother nurses and other health care workers. Should the influenza vaccine be mandatory for this population? Does it really help nurses and doctors? What positive effects does it have?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reviewed a variety of literature relating to this subject and has taken the stand for influenza vaccines for this demographic. While the CDC cannot create new laws nor enforce or regulate laws, the recommendations it makes are usually accepted quite positively by the general health care community.

According to the most recent findings, the CDC recommends influenza vaccinations for health care workers across the board because of the documented increase in patient safety. Because of this, increasing numbers of health care organizations now make this a requirement for continued employment.

Current recommendations also state that the influenza vaccine is approved and recommended for the vast majority of people over the age of six months. It is even more important for those who are at high risk of developing the flu and complications from the disease, such as seniors, pregnant women, young children and individuals with certain life-threatening chronic diseases. Because health care workers, including nurses, are at high risk of coming into direct contact with patients who have influenza, they are certainly at a higher risk of contracting this disease when compared to the general population.

Of course, there are still plenty of people who oppose mandatory influenza vaccinations for health care workers. By making certain forms of health care mandatory, it may seem as if these individuals are losing their ability to make their own choices. Nurses may begin to wonder what other behaviors will become mandatory for them next. Even the general population could start to wonder if patients will be forced into certain health care behaviors or will lose their right to refuse certain treatments. In addition, the majority of health care workers who do contract influenza are healthy enough to fight off the disease on their own without being hospitalized.

After learning more about the pros and cons of influenza vaccines for nurses, the following statements can be made.

  • Because the influenza vaccine is considered to be quite safe, getting this shot is an easy choice to make in order to keep one’s job.
  • Even if the vaccination is not mandatory for a job, it is wise for nurses to get the shot in order to stay healthy and prevent the spread of influenza to their patients.

What do you think? Should health care workers be required to get the flu vaccine?