Should nurses be forced into getting the flu vaccination? Or is there a bigger issue not being addressed?

The time of year is upon us again…the dreaded flu season! Many of us just become germaphobes this time of year!

For many nurses and other healthcare providers, it becomes a moral dilemma. The dilemma is made by well-intentioned organizations that set policies that providers have to obtain a flu vaccine. If they do not, then they’re forced to wear a mask half the year, or worse lose their job. This is to protect the providers and the clients that they serve. Should nurses be forced into getting the flu vaccination? Or is there a bigger issue not being addressed? We are going to take a look at both sides of the argument, and see if it is really all about the flu shot, or something else.

The argument for the forced flu vaccinations

  • The number one argument for forced flu vaccinations is for client safety. By taking the step of vaccination and getting the vaccine ourselves, we are protecting the spread of influenza to our clients. Organizations do not want their doctors and nurses giving the patients they are treating the flu.
  • Another is how effective the vaccine for the flu is overall. According to the Nurse Journal, the flu vaccine has been found to be about 70% effective. That is pretty good prevention for one shot.
  • Healthcare providers are typically more at risk of contracting the flu. It only makes sense, we are the ones closest to sick patients. We are on the front lines so we are at higher risk for getting sick ourselves.

The argument against forced flu vaccination

  • If doctors and nurses are forced into getting flu shots, then will everyone else be forced to get vaccinated eventually? When you force one part of the population to do something like this, then it opens up the door for more organizations to try and enforce flu vaccines.
  • The side effects of the flu vaccine can be severe. This really calls into question the benefit to risk ratio. The flu vaccine has shown a slight increase in risk for Guillain-Barre syndrome. According to the Eurosurveillance Journal, one flu vaccine can cause an increase of 2-3 times as many hospitalizations for seizures in children.
  • The year before the vaccine is made in prediction to what the next flu season viruses will be. Sometimes the mark is completely missed and vaccination does not work against certain viruses. This can cause a false sense of protection, and people can believe that they are protected, and they are not.


What’s the bigger issue and why is it not being addressed?

I personally receive the flu vaccination every year. It is my choice and I am not forced. I guess theoretically, I have worked places that do have policies that require vaccination or your job is lost, or you wear a mask. So I have been able to watch some of these scenarios unfold with fellow nurses, who choose not to vaccinate and the implications.

Client safety is very important. Flu shots are just the focus as of right now. It is easier to focus on this, instead of the bigger picture. Ask yourself a question. How many times have you gone to work sick? Was it because you didn’t have sick pay or forced to come in because no sick time? I have personally experienced being forced into work after a positive flu result. I was told come in or lose your job. This was a positive test and yes I was vaccinated prior. Hows that protecting our clients? Maybe the effort needs to be more on supporting our healthcare workers when they are sick and giving them ample sick time if needed. I have also experienced nurses coming to work when they are sick. In between clients they are checking their temperatures and they have a high fever, but still working. If you ask why they are working and not at home recouping. The answer is I can’t afford to take the time off. Maybe the answer is if you have a highly contagious virus like the flu, that has been positively identified, then you get paid time off. That will cut down on our poor clients who come in contact with us and our fellow co-workers. It is a much bigger problem than a flu vaccine. It is a whole system that needs to be reevaluated. It is just easier to pawn it off on mandatory flu vaccines. What do you think?

(Feature image)Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash