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Posted by Steve Walsh on Mar 15th, 2018 12:06pm

The following blog post is from Guest Commentator Steven Defossez, MD, Vice President for Clinical Integration at the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association:

Finally, common sense has prevailed over a single nurses' union that sued a Massachusetts hospital to try and block mandatory flu vaccination for healthcare workers.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has dismissed the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) lawsuit that challenged Brigham and Women's Hospital's mandatory flu vaccination policy for employees.

A number of hospitals in Massachusetts require caregivers to receive flu vaccines each year, unless they have a medical or religious exemption, in which case the healthcare worker needs to wear a face mask in the presence of patients. All hospitals in the commonwealth strongly encourage their workers to get vaccinated and offer free flu vaccine to their employees.

For years, the MNA has tried to make one non-starter argument after another against mandatory flu vaccination, garnering strong opposition as far back as 2014 from members of the general public and physicians, who de-bunked the union leadership's incorrect claims that there were a number of adverse events related to flu vaccine, when in fact serious health risk due to flu vaccine is rare. The Boston Globe even wrote an editorial supporting mandatory flu vaccination for all healthcare workers in 2014. The nurses' union's latest objections - that mandatory vaccination is an overreach and unfair given that the vaccine sometimes has limited efficacy  - didn't hold water with the judge or with medical professionals. The Boston Herald article on the judge's decision cites epidemiologists who "urge the vaccination of hospital personnel, given the vulnerable population they care for," and note that "even a vaccine poorly matched with the virus during a particular season may provide some protection."

Our hospitals are taking the lead in this important public health and safety effort, but here in Massachusetts, healthcare employees can and should be universally immunized against influenza each year. MHA strongly supports the establishment of state policies that would require all members of the healthcare workforce without a religious or medical exemption to be vaccinated.

Hospital patients who contract the flu are the most susceptible to severe complications or even death from this illness. Getting a flu shot is safe, it's the best way to protect against the influenza virus, and it can prevent unnecessary anxiety and waste of healthcare resources. As healthcare providers, our members are responsible for promoting public health and should be role models. As centers for care, hospitals will continue to be proactive in ensuring the safest conditions possible for their patients, families, and healthcare professionals alike.

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