2013 is rife with reports of the terrible human costs of the flu. Emergency rooms nationwide have been overwhelmed. Art Caplan’s great blog post urges doctors to educate patients that the flu vaccine is not just for their benefit. He tells healthcare providers to send a clear message by getting the flu shot themselves. But what should we do when they refuse?
Still, one-third of healthcare providers do not protect themselves, their patients, and the public from influenza. We remain far short of the national Health People 2020 target of 90%. Do these providers have religious beliefs that raise tricky constitutional and statutory questions? Do they assert deeply held philosophical objections? Media accounts suggest so. We hear of the vegan customer service representative who refuses the flu vaccine because it is grown in chicken eggs, and the religious holistic nurse who objects both to vaccination and to wearing a mask.
But the main reason for going unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is that healthcare providers simply did not want to get vaccinated. Other common reasons: they think flu vaccines don’t work, fear experiencing side effects, or don’t think they will need the vaccine. Some reasons do not reflect the evidence. Others suggest, as Art Caplan puts it that healthcare staff need to “stop thinking only about themselves.” Continue reading