NEW YORK NURSE: October 2010
by Erin Silk
In 2009, mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers, spurred on by the novel H1N1 influenza virus, was a hot-button topic for New York’s RNs and others across the country. Dr. Richard Daines, commissioner of the state health department, tried to force healthcare workers, including nurses, to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Although the mandate was suspended due to the low availability of the vaccine, many nurses were anxious at the prospect of being required to be vaccinated.
Last flu season, NYSNA’s Education, Practice and Research (EPR) team fielded more than 143 calls per month from registered nurses wanting to know what NYSNA was doing about the plans for mandatory vaccination.
“We advised the nurses on what they already knew – that a comprehensive approach to infection control is the appropriate response to potential or real epidemics or pandemics,” said EPR’s Associate Director Eileen Avery. The widespread, voluntary, vaccination of healthcare workers is an appropriate part of an infection control plan, but NYSNA does not believe vaccination should be a condition of employment.”
We enter flu season 2010 without the same concerns about outbreaks of the H1N1 flu virus and without a regulatory push for the mandatory vaccination of nurses and other healthcare workers. However, it does look like state Senator Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) plans to introduce a bill requiring some form of mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers. NYSNA will closely monitor the bill’s introduction, which even if passed would likely not go into effect before the 2011 flu season, and continue to oppose mandatory vaccination.
However, NYSNA supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that everyone over the age of six months, as appropriate, be immunized against seasonal influenza. Unlike last year, when there were two recommended flu shots (one for the H1N1 virus and one for the seasonal flu), this year’s single flu shot is designed to protect against all the expected flu virus strains.
Widespread vaccination is important, but it is only one part of a comprehensive infection prevention plan, designed to protect patients and limit the spread of the flu virus. In addition to a vaccination program, a comprehensive infection prevention plan includes education, proper hygiene practices, and the appropriate use and availability of personal protective equipment.