What Do You Think? –Mandatory Flu Vaccines For Health Care Workers

A recent study about mandatory flu vaccines for health care workers caught our attention. The multi-institutional study found that mandatory flu vaccines improved participation by as much as 30 percent and reduced absenteeism during critical periods of patient surges by about 6 percent.

Previous work focused on the impact of health care worker vaccination on improving patient outcomes. The findings expand the potential benefits of an institutional policy and help settle previous conflicting data on whether the mandatory policies reduce health care worker absenteeism. As seen this year, health care institutions can struggle to care for surging numbers of patients with influenza when the number of workers available is declining due to illness.



"Studies suggest that higher vaccination rates among health care workers decrease patient mortality and health care associated in?uenza in certain settings," said Dr. Trish Perl, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and one of the study corresponding authors and overall Principal Investigator. "In addition, absenteeism can pose a serious threat to how effectively a hospital is able to manage the surge of patients during an outbreak. Our study shows that mandatory vaccination policies help maintain better staffing levels and staffing options during those critical surges."

Researchers studied the effects over three separate flu seasons at three institutions with mandatory vaccination policies and four institutions that offered optional vaccination. For all individuals studied (4,000-plus health care workers), vaccination was offered free and on-site.

Researchers found that:

At mandatory sites, 97 percent, 96 percent and 92 percent of health care workers received vaccinations in the three years studied.

At nonmandatory sites, 67 percent, 63 percent, and 60 percent of workers were vaccinated over the same period.

Absenteeism among health care workers was about 6 percent lower at mandatory sites than nonmandatory sites, and the number of days absent also was lower.

Males, older workers, and those at nonmandatory vaccination sites had longer durations of sick leave.

Vaccinated health care workers had a 30 percent reduction in absenteeism compared with nonvaccinated health care workers.

"This was a large study across a variety of types of institutions, including pediatric and adult acute care hospitals and VA facilities, which asked whether policies that require employees to get a flu vaccine protected both the employee as well as the institutions," said Dr. Perl, Professor of Internal Medicine who holds the Jay P. Sanford Professorship in Infectious Diseases.

The study, which appears in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, didn't look specifically at whether higher rates of vaccination of health care workers reduced infections among patients, but previous studies have shown that this is true, especially among the most vulnerable patient populations.

The Healthy People collaborative in the U.S. has a goal of 90 percent vaccination rates among health care workers by 2020. The study suggests that goal will be difficult to achieve with only voluntary policies, said Dr. Perl.

What do you think about mandatory flu vaccines by your employer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.



  1. I also agree with the other commenters that the flu shot should NOT be mandatory. Besides the fact that it is not effective, my other main objective is this…. My patients, their families and friends, and everyone else that steps foot into the hospital where I work, have a choice about whether they get a flu shot. When a patient is admitted, we ask them if they got the flu shot and if not, if they want it. If they answer no, and no, we do not make them wear a mask. They have a right as a patient to choose their medical care. But if I am on the receiving end of a medical procedure, am I not the patient? Does it matter if I am at work?
    We never stop visitors at the hospital door and give them a mask if they did not get the flu shot. You know why?…because medical information is private. Ever hear of HIPAA? Apparently it is not a violation to put a nurse’s health information on public display, but we could never do this to a patient or a visitor.
    In fact, in my hospital, a patient can be on isolation for the flu (or anything else contagious) and their visitors are allowed to go in and out of the room without proper mask and gown. And if the patient has to go out of their room for a test, they are usually taken through the halls without a mask or gown. (or rather than ‘allowed’ the proper isolation procedures are not enforced)
    It is definitely a double standard. Masks are only worn to shame a nurse.

  2. I agree so much with Karen Connelly’s response. It’s absolutely ridiculous that healthcare workers are being MANDATED to have the flu shot. So sick and tired of having to fight this every year. I’ve hardly ever missed a day of work because of illness yet every year they are trying to ram it down my throat. I don’t react well to it. Also, see so many people I work with who get sick, cough over patients while they’re working with them yet they are not mandated to wear a mask. There’s something very wrong with this picture.

  3. I too know a colleague who ended up on a ventilator in ICU for weeks secondary to Guillain Barre! The flu shot is overly dramatized. Anyone in research can see that these studies are flawed. I’m glad I’m retired now! We have much bigger health issues at hand to worry about.

  4. The “study” is flawed for starters. I agree with Susan, also, I have an allergy to the vaccine therefore don’t get one I have not had the flu. I don’t wear a mask unless I am entering the room of a patient that standard precautions applies. A colleague received the vaccine last year and had a Gullian Barre reaction. Considering the lack of effectiveness and possibilities for reactions no one should be forced to get a vaccine, especially if the mandate is so the industry can conduct experiments and use their results to push their own agenda.

  5. How much researchering did this writer do on how the immune system works, immunization, how and why the immune system responds to immunization and the fact that there is proof that the immune system doesn’t always make antibodies to immunization vaccines (which is why the flu shot is made with fillers to trick your system into responding). Did this writer research all the other sicknesses involved (consider we had many employees miss work due to noravirus this flu season, or how about other virus like the common cold? ILI???) How about all the employees who come to work sick but do not bother to put a mask on because they are not required, after all they had the flu shot? What a false sense of security we have built a culture of care around because “I got the flu shot”. Any employee should have a mask on during flu season if they are working with newborns, or immunosuppresed patient irregardless of whether they have received the flu shot as evidenced by the flu that presented this year. Period. But, we have mistaken common sense for the flu shot when it comes to keeping people “safe” from the flu. I witnessed many employees coming to work sick and or asking a physician for Tamiflu because they are sure they have the flu. Yet, none of them wearing a mask (I did witness a doctor telling an anesthetist to wear a mask if he is sick and his reply was, “I do, in surgery when I am with the patient”, and then walked away.) I would also wonder how is it that a strain of a virus be so wide spread and assumed that one strain only mutates into one new strain? Wouldn’t you assume that every viral cell would have opportunity to vary itself into a different strain than the one sitting right beside it, let alone in a different environment states or even countries away? And wouldn’t you also assume that the original strain is still alive and well somewhere? So if we do not allow our immune system to make memory cells (please research this, the WHO has more unbiased research than our US based CDC) than I would presume that eventually the flu will catch up with you when the antibodies where down in 100-300 days, if you actually devolved any from the immunization in the first place. The flu shot has developed a false sense of safety in the work place when the safest way to protect ourselves and our patients is to develop our immune systems, wash our hands and wear a mask when necessary. I am not against immunization. I do believe it has its place. If it works, the very young should have it for initial exposure purposes, the immunosuppresed and the geriatric society should also receive it. If it works so well, they will develop antibodies to fight off the flu and be protected from those of us who choose to build our immunity otherwise. For those of you with some common sense, please write your senator and congressman about the research that you have done. If the government can make you inject something into your body, at what point will they start making us “drink the Kool-Aid”. Sounds a little risky to go down that path…don’t you think.

    • Well put!! It is ridiculous that hospitals that have real experts on staff allow this to happen. However, hospitals are no longer run by doctors, for the most part bankers do. That is a whole other topic!

  6. The flu vaccine should not be mandatory. More studies are needed to before making it mandatory. Also studies are needed to show complications that can arise because of the vaccine. The vaccine does not guarantee that someone will not get the flu, every year it is a different strain. Good infection control practices during the flu season can assist in the spread of the flu. Careful thoughts need to be given before it becomes a mandatory.

  7. I am NOT for mandatory flu vaccinations. I think I should have the choice of whether to receive it or not and not be “punished” for not getting it, for example, having to wear a mask.

  8. Couple of thoughts: there are no long term studies showing what’s happening to the intensity of flu virus as it responds to the change in annual vaccines; seems the coverage is often the wrong strain anyway as evidenced by this year’s epidemic; you should have the right to make the decision if you want it or not based on principle; if I have the PTO, it shouldn’t matter if I use it for illness or on an island.


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