Mom, Apple Pie, Handwashing, and Influenza Vaccination

The recent news story regarding a pregnant healthcare worker refusing a flu vaccination has generated much controversy prompting her firing by the hospital, I  decision which I fully support.

A few points, most of which I have made in response to the HHS plan for influenza vaccination of health care workers and some other places (Today's Hospitalist, ACEP News): 

  • Employers have the right to set the conditions of employment, including what vaccines they require be received by employees
  • Employees are free to refuse such vaccinations and face the consequences which could include being asked to wear a mask, refrain from patient contact, or termination
  • Influenza vaccine, thought not a panacea with its ~60% effectiveness, is the only preventative countermeasure we have against this virus
  • The influenza vaccine is unequivocally safe, as it is in all demographic subgroups, for pregnant women and, in fact, pregnant women are at elevated risk for severe influenza which can lead to miscarriage, among other things

As a physician, I view the influenza vaccine as part of my professionalism as well as a patient safety issue. While I respect the right of individuals to abstain from the vaccine--at their own peril--employers should not countenance such behavior, especially healthcare facilities.