Close to 50 employees who worked for Essentia Health got to start to their Thanksgiving holiday a few days early because they refused to get their flu shots.
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a big issue in the health world. However, hospitals are not giving their employees a chance to choose. Public health experts insist that hospital workers must get their flu shots because it is a public safety issue. The chances of passing illnesses such as the flu on to patients are too high for the upper-Midwest hospital chain to risk.
Health workers can make their own decisions about their health; however, chances cannot be taken when considering the health of their patients. These health workers are regularly in contact with vulnerable people such as babies in incubators, the elderly and those with severe immune system problems.
Influenza kills up to 50,000 Americans every year. The Center for Disease Control is certain that this number can be brought down if more people took their flu shots annually, but vaccination rates are rather low. Less than 65% of the population get their flu shots regularly. When employers demand that they get their shots, that number goes up to 85% as compared to 45% without the policy.
California is one of the few states that make flu vaccinations mandatory for health workers. Minnesota does not enforce such laws; however, Essentia Health stated that they would enforce such a policy anyway for the good of their patients. Before enforcing the policy, they tried to persuade their workers to get their shots with voluntary programs, but a turnout of only 75% was deemed not good enough.
The new policy now means that workers who are unable to prove that they cannot get their shots for valid reasons such as allergic reactions, or prove their religious and philosophical viewpoints with expert-approved waivers will have to find employment elsewhere.
Essentia Health did everything that they could to make the process of getting the shots easy for the employees. Free vaccination clinics were suggested and programs were implemented to get them vaccinated at work so that they did not have to take time off. Monday the 20th of November was the last chance for the employees to either get their shots or get their opt-out papemork in order. Out of almost 14,000 employees, only 50 took it to the point where they would no longer be able to work for Essentia.
Essentia is not the only medical establishment to push for its employees to get vaccinated. After vaccinating close to 13,000 employees in an event that they called Flu-la-palooza, Vanderbilt University Medical Centre now holds the Guinness World Record for the most vaccinations given in 8 hours.