Mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers continue to be pushed–and then they will be for everyone

On February 8, a federal government vaccine advisory group (NVAC) made five recommendatios to increase healthcare worker flu vaccinations.  Members have significant conflicts of interest, such as Marie McCormick, who has chaired many IOM committees on vaccine safety and efficacy.  As reported by CIDRAP:

… The NVAC’s recommendations urge US hospitals to establish comprehensive infection control programs that include education on how to prevent flu transmission and integrate flu vaccination programs into existing flu prevention and occupational health programs. The recommendations also press federal health officials to continue efforts to standardize methods on how to measure healthcare worker flu vaccination rates.

If those three steps don’t push the healthcare worker vaccination levels to the national goal, NVAC suggests that healthcare employers strongly consider mandatory flu vaccination policies. A fifth recommendation calls for new and better flu vaccines…
From NPR
… Consumer and business groups met in Washington Feb 1 to show their support for a recommendation from the National Business Group on Health that hospitals require all health care workers to be vaccinated annually against the flu.
“We believe that patients have the right to assume that health care personnel, themselves, will take all reasonable measures to reduce and avoid transmission of preventable diseases including the flu,” said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the NBGH. “I think we, as people, assume that after all, they’re our caretakers and we look to them for care and treatment.”
  The NBGH is a nonprofit representing more than 300 large employers, including 68 of the Fortune 100.   Its statement urged hospitals to “require annual flu vaccination of all employees as a condition of employment unless employees can demonstrate medical contraindications (with physician documentation) or religious objections.”

… Among other groups supporting the proposal there were Consumer Reports and the American Hospital Association. Dr. Don Wright, deputy assistant secretary for health care quality at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at the briefing that the agency will be publishing data by next year on hospitals that have vaccinated employees as part of their efforts to reduce hospital-acquired infections.

… Even within the government, there are conflicting views. In a letter to the National Vaccine Program Office last month, Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said his organization supports the goal of the HHS’ Healthy People 2020 initiative to get 90 percent of health care personnel vaccinated. But “we are troubled that some have tried to convert the goal into a mandate,” he wrote.

… Hospitals that report their employee vaccination data will receive a bonus payment, Wright said, and already well over 95 percent of hospitals are doing that. Wright said in an interview later that HHS is not “endorsing any one method [of boosting vaccination rates] over another. Our goal is to get the rate of vaccinations up, so the jury is still out on the best way to do that.”

But do vaccinations really make sense?  Flu shots are newly compounded each year, and in many years they do not provide protection against circulating strains.  For example, in 2009 the seasonal flu vaccine had more takers than the swine flu vaccine, yet no flu strains circulated that were in the vaccine.  CDC still recommended the seasonal vaccine throughout that flu season, even when it was clear there would be no exposure to seasonal flu strains.  How many side effects occurred from those (approx.) 90 million US vaccinations?  What were the costs to administer the vaccine after it became clear it would be of no benefit?  How many were harmed once it became clear the vaccinations were unnecessary?  What happened to “First, Do No Harm”?
Flu is transmitted by coughing and sneezing.  Healthcare workers should not be working with patients if they are coughing and might transmit any of multiple respiratory infections. 
Most institutions have policies that prevent staff working while infectious (actively coughing), as does my hospital.
There is no evidence that vaccinated healthcare workers reduce flu deaths in patients.
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