Wait 'til next year

Regardless of your view on mandatory influenza immunization of healthcare workers, I can tell you from personal experience that this year is not the best time to institute a mandatory program. We chose this path here, and it has been an unproductive distraction during a very busy time.

For starters, we felt we couldn’t mandate a vaccine for which the supply was then uncertain, so we only mandated the seasonal vaccine….putting us in the awkward position of mandating the vaccine that doesn’t cover the predominant circulating strain. Moving ahead now to mandate the nH1N1 vaccine might place us in the equally ridiculous position of forcing healthcare workers to be vaccinated just as the nH1N1 epidemic is waning, or even after the epidemic, depending upon when the full vaccine supply arrives and how long our local H1N1 activity lasts (we haven’t received a single dose as of today, and H1N1 activity is already widespread on our area, and will soon be widespread across the state).

The mandate also resulted in our union filing an injunction to suspend the program, setting up an immediate adversarial relationship with many of our healthcare workers at a time when we most need to foster trust and communication (e.g. during a pandemic response!).

So if you don’t already have a mandatory flu vaccine program for healthcare workers, my advice mirrors that of Cub fans everywhere: “Wait ‘til next year”. Dr. Thoman Freiden, head of the CDC, said the same about NY State’s program recently:
“This is just not the right flu season to take this on”
Nonetheless, IDSA has decided now is the right time to recommend mandating the nH1N1 vaccine. You can link to their reasoning from the front page of the IDSA website.


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