Health care workers protest flu shot rule

September 28, 2009 3:41:16 PM PDT
Get a shot or get a pink slip - that's the choice facing health care workers in New York. It is the only state in the nation that requires flu shots for health care workers. Those workers have a protest rally planned for Tuesday in Albany.

The reminder to get your flu shot comes around this same time every year, but concerns about a renewed outbreak of the swine flu virus have added an extra urgency. And now, in a move some consider drastic, a new state regulation now requires all health care workers to be vaccinated against the flu or risk losing their jobs.

"This is just not the right year to do that," said Tim Lowe, of the New York State Nurses Association.

Lowe is the occupational health and safety representative for association, which, like several other worker groups, beleives vaccinations are fine. They say, however, that mandating them goes too far.

"I think it's a false sense of security to tell hospitals and patients that because the health care professionals got the flu vaccine that they're going to be safe," Lowe said.

But the state commissioner of health believes mass immunization of health care workers will help keep patients healthier and slow the spread of the flu virus.

In an open letter, he said, "Given the outstanding efficacy and safety record of approved influenza vaccines, our overriding concern then, as health care workers, should be the interests of our patients, not our own sensibilities about mandates."

Many of the hospital workers seemed to agree.

"Obviously, we interact with patients and we want to give them the safest encounter we can," nurse practitioner Anna Mola said.

"I got mine," registered nurse Denise Higgins said. "I think it's a good thing to do. It's preventative."

Others, however, don't like being forced to get the shot.

"If I choose to get it, I will get it," lab worker Peter Foster said. "But if I choose not to, I'm not gonna get it."

Health workers have until November 30 to get immunized.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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