Flu vaccine is mandatory for CHOP, Penn Medicine workers

    Two Philadelphia health centers now require workers to get flu shot. Employees can decline the vaccine for religious or medical reasons, but others who refuse could face suspension – or other sanctions.

    Two Philadelphia health centers now require workers to get flu shot. Employees can decline the vaccine for religious or medical reasons, but others who refuse could face suspension – or other sanctions.

    Listen:

    [audio:090929teflu.mp3]

    The seasonal flu vaccine is now mandatory for health workers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Penn Medicine workers must also get the H1N1 vaccine.

    Dr. Neil Fishman leads infection control efforts at Penn Medicine.

    Fishman: We know from the science that’s available that the most effective way to prevent influenza is with the influenza vaccine. So we’ve instituted this policy to protect our patients and to protect the people that work in our hospitals.

    Pennsylvania’s largest health workers union, SEIU, opposes mandatory vaccines and advocates education efforts. Fishman says medical centers in other states have achieved 99 percent compliance after adopting a mandatory flu vaccine policy.

    At Penn Medicine, workers can decline the flu shot for religious or medical reasons, but they will have to wear a protective mask on the job.

    Kathy Magaro is a health policy consultant for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union representing health workers. She says the mask policy is bad for morale.

    Magaro: It really is just a method to try to coerce employees into getting the vaccine; it’s sort of like a Scarlet Letter. You know if you see people walking around with a mask on you know that they have not gotten the vaccine.

    Magaro says there is no evidence that requiring healthy workers to wear a mask stops the spread of the flu. At Penn, refusing to get the flu vaccine can eventually lead to suspension without pay.

    Other medical centers are still weighing their policies. Tom Grace is vice president of Disaster Preparedness for the Delaware Valley Health Care Council.

    Grace: Well the downsides would be that it could set up some employee resistance, just ill feelings from taking away from a well-experienced, and trained and knowledgeable clinician the ability to make a decision about what’s best for them.

    Grace says the vaccine is the most effective way to prevent influenza, so there are strong arguments on both sides of the issue.

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