Hospital Workers Fired for Refusing to Get a Flu Shot

Say What!? 89

flu shotEight hospital employees have lost their jobs after refusing to get the flu shot, which became mandatory for all staff this year.

Workers at IU Health Goshen Hospital in Indiana had the option to file for medical or religious exemptions -- but were then given the boot when they wouldn't get the vaccine.

The hospital says its new stricter rules are meant to protect patients with weaker immune systems, since the flu can be particularly dangerous and even deadly if those people catch it. While I appreciate that they're looking out for their patients' well-being, I have to wonder: what about the rights of their own employees?

I understand the flu has a high mortality rate in people who already have weakened immune systems and could quite literally kill patients. I even understand why the hospital is trying to force their employees to get the flu shot, since not being vaccinated seems irresponsible when you work directly with sick people.

But if this were any other field and employers were trying to make their staff get this or any other vaccine, it would be considered an infringement on their rights and personal beliefs.

These hospital workers deserve to get their jobs back. For one thing, it's opening the door to other employers to require staff to get shots or other medical procedures as a contingency for employment. And for another, vaccines are a personal choice and carry with them some potential for harm, so if someone doesn't want one, they should not be forced to get it.

There has to be an alternative to people who have dedicated their entire lives to the field of medicine being given a pink slip because they don’t want the flu shot. Maybe there should be a forced leave of absence without pay during flu season or a quarantine in which those employees are prohibited from working with patients with compromised immune systems. But it makes no sense that they were given the chance to opt out -- only to be fired. That seems like discrimination to me.

Do you think it’s fair to fire someone who refuses to get a flu shot?


Image via GHinson/Flickr

cold & flu, doctors, medicine, swine flu


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nonmember avatar Truth Teller

Honestly, I don't think the flu shot is as great as doctors want you to think it is.

WCURi... WCURiverRat

The employees with allergies to the vaccine were given exemptions. Read the article before you start ranting. The ones that were denied were some of the religious exemptions.

nonmember avatar Littlefrogs

I'm a teacher. My employer demanded that we either have new vaccines OR have blood titer tests to prove we were vaccinated (at their expense) or we had to leave the classroom.

You know what... I don't have a problem with this. This is a public health thing.

GwenMB GwenMB

What's odd to me is that the flu shot doesn't even necessarily mean you won't get the flu.  It doesn't cover all possible strains.

Can you still carry the flu virus if you have the shot, assuming the shot covered that particular strain?

What about just making sure that people who are sick aren't working?

Madel... Madelaine

I think she has a right to say no.

nonmember avatar Lonna

I live in goshen, and just saw this on the news. Most of those hospital workers are of some amish background. They worked at a hospital but dont believe in medicine. While I respect them, I think you should be vaccinated working in a hospital. I had both my boys at IU its a nice hospital, it really is. Elkhart County is Amish territory, while employers work around their needs, I dont think that can be done in a hospital.

dusky... dusky_rose

I don't think its fair. I mean, just because you get a flu shot doesn't mean you won't come down with some other flu like illness and pass that along. I don't think that it should be mandatory, only recommended.

nonmember avatar andie

@Gwen, you are contagious with the flu long before you know you have it. Obviously anyone who has flu symptoms wouldn't be at work, but by the time you know you have it, you've infected lots of other people. I work in a hospital and I think anyone who refuses to get a flu shot shouldn't work in health care. Period. I had a co-worker who had Guillain-Barre syndrome and was not able to have the flu shot. She had to find work in a different part of the hospital where she was not around those with compromised immune systems. She wasn't happy about it, but she understood why she had to do it. I work in the pediatric oncology unit and the last thing those kids or their families need is the flu.

Sammy... SammyMama

This is really stupid, as you can easily get the flu even after having been vaccinated. At my last office job the management was possessed about people getting the shot - they even had someone come to the breakroom and administer it free for their employees.  The owner of the company sent out at least 3 company-wide emails strongly encouraging people to get it, the HR people were badgering everyone, etc.  10 people in the office ended up with the flu and all of them save for one had gotten the shot.  The CDC guesses at the current flu strain; it is not a guarantee that it will match the prevelent strain.

These workers are not putting anyone else at risk.  If they get sick they will have to stay home for the length of their illness, which could mean money out of their own pocket as the flu can take you out for awhile - but that's their bill, not the public's.

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

Its a public health issue. My sons preschool made flu shots mandatory for all staff and students as well. If they didn't meet the criteria for the exception, oh well. If you have a family member in the hospital, especially elderly or with a weak immune system, you would probably feel differently. I was in the er a few weeks ago. The doc told me that the flu is hitting my area earlier and much harder than ever. One of the schools in my town had 168 kids and teachers out with the flu at the same time last month.

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