Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt
debate over the mandatory influenza vaccinations of employees is worthy of a vigorous
public airing. Much controversy has been growing nationwide as to the plight of
employees, particularly healthcare workers, being dismissed from their jobs due
to their refusal to accept such an unwanted intrusion into their personal
fully recognize this argument pits two groups advocating a position based on
rights against each other. Employers, primarily healthcare providers, have
begun to demand flu vaccinations of employees, with extremely limited
exceptions, as a fundamental right of an employer. Individuals who object will
fall back on individual liberties with the choice to make their own personal
healthcare decisions without the threat of dismissal.
both arguments have merit, I fall on the side of personal liberty. The history
of vaccinations in the US has been one filled with controversy. The strongest argument
in favor has been the high degree of effectiveness of many common vaccinations
that reaches 90% or higher. The influenza vaccine does not enjoy this success.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that for the 2012-13 season the vaccine
had a 38% fail rate. This is consistent with all the evidence from previous
years putting the fail rate at anywhere from 30-50%.
documented fact is each year individuals nationwide have been severely harmed by
submitting to the influenza vaccination, and in some cases death has resulted. The
influenza vaccine is easier than ever to obtain. Not long ago, it once required
a visit to a doctor, but it now seems to be readily available in many
locations. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has resulted in the
largest proportion of the population in history being vaccinated against the
we have any less incidence of flu because of it? Not appreciably. The largest declines
in incidence and deaths from influenza came prior to 1980, which is around the time
the flu vaccine became widely used. In fact, a 2005 US National Institute of
Health study of over 30 influenza seasons could not find a correlation between
increasing vaccination coverage and declining mortality rates in any age group.
US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends against mandatory
influenza vaccinations of employees. They state, “At this time, [OSHA believes] there is insufficient evidence for
the federal government to promote mandatory influenza vaccination programs that
may result in employment termination.”
those of us concerned with the increasing erosion of personal freedoms, one
must pose the question of where does this end? Which will be the next employer
to mandate the flu vaccine for its employees? Schools, daycares, restaurants,
grocery stores—the list could be endless. What vaccine will be next?
flu vaccine is different each season. It is an educated guess as to what
strains of the virus will be most prevalent in coming months. In spite of best
efforts, often these predictions are wrong. Because of these variations,
hospitals are already filled with both patients, employees, visitors and
varying vendors who have been ineffectively vaccinated.
is often the case, the financial aspect of this cannot be ignored. I take the
word of healthcare professionals and administrators that their overriding
concern is for patients under their care. This is as it should be. But everyone
should also be aware of the powerful influences that play a role in this as
well. Threats of liability have hospital administrators spooked. The
requirements of Obamacare will likely eventually push healthcare employers to
reach a required plateau of immunizations of their workforce in order to
receive certain bonuses or reimbursements. Pharmaceutical corporations have
obvious financial interests in the mandate as well.
solution to this dilemma is for continued work to be done to improve the effectiveness
of the flu vaccines. If this is not possible, it is up to the community of health
professionals to convince their colleagues that their view is the correct one.
It is also clear that those opposed to the vaccine have alternative suggestions
for ways to increase immunity that are worthy of exploration.
is not likely to be a retreat from these mandates once they become fully implemented
and entrenched. Qualified, experienced and excellent healthcare workers are
being dismissed from their positions or simply quitting to avoid the
confrontation. Many are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. Before we
simply start waiving our personal freedoms aside for “communal benefit”, it
would be important for us to have this serious discussion in the light of day
with all the facts on the table.