Issue: July 2020
Disclosures: Jacobs reports no relevant financial disclosures.
July 21, 2020
1 min read

Should hospitals fire HCWs who refuse to get vaccinated against flu?

Issue: July 2020
Disclosures: Jacobs reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Vaccinating health care workers (HCWs) against influenza is a clinician and patient safety issue, experts said. It protects them and their patients from illness and ensures that facilities are well-staffed during influenza season.

Should hospitals fire medically eligible HCWs who refuse to be vaccinated against influenza? We asked Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member Richard F. Jacobs, MD, professor emeritus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Richard F. Jacobs, MD
Richard F. Jacobs

This is a tough question for me. To start, I am a strong proponent of all HCWs receiving an annual influenza vaccine. It is the policy in the hospitals with which I’m affiliated. If a person has a true allergy or contraindication against receiving the influenza vaccine, with medical documentation, that employee should be required to use personal protective equipment (PPE) during work and/or patient contact and be restricted from contact with highly vulnerable patients.

If an employee just “chooses” not to receive the influenza vaccine, then proper legal channels should be followed to ensure that no alternative (mandatory PPE, restriction or alteration of duties), with human resources input and consideration of institutional policies, can be found that is acceptable. If that employee chooses to not accept and/or adhere to these requirements, then a “for-cause termination” is automatic. This makes sense to me for employees who have a work history with the institution and were hired before mandatory vaccination.

For all new employees, barring a confirmed medical contraindication, their hire and contract agreement should make mandatory influenza immunization a requirement. If they then choose to not be immunized, they are in violation of their contract and should be fired.

Click here to read the Cover Story, "Flu vaccination ‘a professional and ethical responsibility’ for all HCWs."