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Is It Ethical To Require Flu Shots?

Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2012

“Don’t forget to get a flu shot.”

This time of the year physicians, pharmacies, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals are among those calling for certain populations to get a flu shot. So it was disappointing to learn that this simple and effective way of preventing flu has been called “really demeaning and insulting to people’s intelligence.”

That quote, from the president of the California Nurses Association is in response to a new mandate that requires health care workers in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties to get flu shots or wear a mask at work the entire flu season. Those regulations are already in effect in San Francisco and Sacramento counties, and Alameda county has the proposal under consideration.

“This is really to protect the most frail, and persons at highest risks,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, health officer for Santa Clara county. He says the move, mandated for all employees who are in contact with patients in hospitals, clinics, ambulance companies, adult day health centers, nursing homes and other health facilities, is necessary. “The vaccine compliance rates in health care workers are just too low.”

Dr. Margaret McLean, director of bioethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics said, “Getting the flu vaccine or wearing a mask is a common sense way to fulfill the professional obligation to do no harm.” Additional information, including “An Ethical Analysis of Preventing the Spread of Seasonal Influenza” is available on the Center’s website.

Tags: influenza, mandates, public health

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