Rising flu toll sparks tussle on shot rules

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Rising flu toll sparks tussle on shot rules
Rising flu toll sparks tussle on shot rules

The contentious issue of whether healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated against the flu gained new ferocity in January. Deaths caused by influenza hit 7.3% the first week of the month, triggering an automatic “epidemic” designation from health officials.

With it came widespread public and professional debate over the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, as well as whether operators have the right to mandate flu shots as a condition of employment.

Most long-term care providers do not mandate the shot.

However, studies from nursing homes give the strongest evidence that worker vaccination “significantly decreases” deaths, said Carolyn Bridges, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director.

Healthcare workers' ethical obligation to protect patients trumps any individual “right” they feel to not take the shot, said Medical ethicist Art Caplan in an Associated Press report. 

At least 15 healthcare workers in four states had been fired and others had resigned for refusing to be vaccinated, according to a review last month. 


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