Speaking last week at a meeting of the New York State Hospital Planning and Review Council, the New York State Nurses Association strongly opposed a regulation that would require every healthcare worker in the state to be immunized for influenza.
Despite these objections, the council adopted the proposal as an emergency rule that could go into effect before this winter’s flu season. The rule affects all healthcare personnel, both paid and unpaid, who interact with patients in hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, certified home health agencies, long-term healthcare programs, AIDS home care programs, licensed home care services, and hospices.
In its testimony, the association called the council’s action a “scorched earth” approach. “While we encourage nurses to be immunized for the flu, we do not agree that nurses should be required to get immunizations as a condition of employment,” said Eileen Avery, RN, associate director of the association’s Education, Practice & Research Program.
“The seasonal flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective and sometimes is highly ineffective, as it was in 2005 and 2007,” Avery said. “There is no guarantee that in any given year, the public will benefit from mandatory immunization of healthcare providers.”
The association also is concerned that the state and healthcare facilities might rely upon flu shots to prevent the spread of influenza among workers and patients rather than implementing proven infection control procedures such the use of appropriate respirators and isolation rooms.
The regulation’s impact on the state’s shortage of nurses could be significant, the association says.
“There is no exemption for religious or cultural preferences regarding immunization, effectively blocking individuals who have these beliefs from earning their livelihood,” Avery said. “It’s possible that nurses will leave the profession or choose another career because of this onerous mandate; a serious threat at a time when the shortage of nurses in New York State is expected to reach 20,000 within a decade.”
To access the full text of the testimony, CLICK HERE.