NYSNA supports a comprehensive flu prevention plan that includes voluntary vaccination. We oppose mandatory vaccination.
NYSNA urges all registered nurses and their family members to get their seasonal influenza vaccination this fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthcare providers get vaccinated each year during flu season. We have an ethical obligation to protect ourselves, our families, and the patients we serve from the flu.
A comprehensive infection prevention program includes:
- Using respiratory hygiene, cough etiquette, and hand hygiene.
- Implementing standard and droplet precautions for infected individuals.
- Educating staff, visitors, and the community on flu prevention and control.
- Making N-95 respirators available to healthcare workers who work near patients with influenza or influenza-like illnesses.
- Active surveillance and influenza testing for new illness cases.
- Restricting ill visitors and personnel.
- Rapidly administering influenza antiviral medications for treatment and prevention during outbreaks.
- Providing paid sick time during flu season for infected staff.
- Engineering controls, such as adequate air changes per hour, regulating temperature and humidity, and using anti-microbial devices.
- Aggressive community outreach to prevent community acquired flu from entering the facility. (All flu starts in the community and is brought into a facility!)
Making a vaccine program successful
Flu vaccine programs work best when they include educational components that address the benefits, effectiveness, and common misconceptions of the vaccination, and when the vaccine is free and available at convenient times and locations. A 2009 report by the Joint Commission described how 28 healthcare organizations improved their immunization rates by implementing comprehensive infection control strategies.
NYSNA opposes unilateral mandates
NYSNA does not support unilateral mandates – such as that issued by the New York State Dept. of Health – that require nurses who have not been vaccinated to wear a facemask during flu season. This is a coercive policy that does not accomplish its own goal of protecting patients. Wearing a facemask when infected only deflects infective particles and can turn the mask into a vector of transmission.
Mandatory facemasks also neglect the OSHA hierarchy of controls, which require an employer first to seek to eliminate the hazard. For those nurses who do not, or cannot, get the vaccine, using paid sick time during periods of infectivity is the most appropriate strategy. We will uphold the right of RNs to choose whether or not to be vaccinated and we oppose making vaccination a condition of employment.
NYSNA encourages voluntary vaccination
As a trusted profession, we owe it to ourselves, our families, and our patients to set a good example and get the flu shot when appropriate. And be sure to stay home if you are sick. In cooperation with healthcare facilities and policymakers, we can improve voluntary vaccination rates, establish effective flu prevention and control efforts, and safeguard the public’s health.