Minnesota Nurses Advise a Slowdown on National Smallpox Vaccination Program

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) stands in solidarity with its national organization, the American Nurses Association, to urge a more cautious effort in the development of a national vaccination program against smallpox.

"We have too many questions, too many doubts to move at such breakneck speed through this process," said Erin Murphy, executive director of the MNA. Nurses are calling for a more thoughtful approach that examines issues from scientific, emotional and economic perspectives. Murphy pointed out member concerns that centered on several areas including:

-- the safety of patients and their families as well as nurses and their

own families

-- maintaining sufficient staffing throughout a crisis event

-- preventing retaliation against those refusing to be vaccinated

-- worker's compensation issues

-- defining the full scope of the volunteer task

The information being received by healthcare providers is changing on a daily basis and organizations are struggling with determining what is reliable. "I would characterize the atmosphere as 'frenzied,'" said Murphy, "and I certainly don't want our nurses to have to make such a weighty decision under such pressured circumstances."

MNA/ANA is one of several entities that are encouraging more caution as President Bush's program to immunize 500,000 front line healthcare workers is set to begin January 24, 2003. The Institute of Medicine, other unions and Minnesota's own Department of Health are calling for or executing delays in the implementation of the process.

MNA has established three guiding principles for its members to help them make informed decisions, realizing the personal risks prior to volunteering for any program.

Choice

-- Any MNA support is predicated upon a smallpox vaccination program is

that remains strictly voluntary.

Training

-- MNA will work to ensure that adequate training is provided for RNs who

respond as volunteers or as part of their employment to a terrorist

event. The organization encourages nurses to avail themselves of

educational opportunities, but advises them to assure trainers the

nurse's presence does not constitute a commitment.

Protection

-- MNA will work to ensure that adequate protection is provided for RNs,

both physically and legally.

With more than 16,500 members, MNA is the leading organization for registered nurses in the Midwest and is among the oldest and largest representatives of RNs for collective bargaining in the nation. Established in 1905, MNA is a multi-purpose organization that fosters high standards for nursing education and practice, and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. MNA is a constituent member of the American Nurses Association and its labor arm, the United American Nurses.

Source: Minnesota Nurses Association

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