Healthcare workers terminated for refusing the flu shot


By: Nawa Arsala Lodin
Last week, Essentia Health reportedly fired 50 employees who refused to get a flu shot.  Essentia Health is a health system based in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho, with 15 hospitals and 75 clinics. Essentia’s Chief Patient Safety Officer warned that staff that do not get the flu shot could lose their jobs. Additionally, staff with religious or medical reasons, were exempt from the requirement.

Requiring vaccinations in the school setting or in the healthcare setting are not novel. They are generally a condition of employment or attendance. Further, vaccination laws are not novel. In fact, the very first laws requiring the smallpox vaccination dates back to 1809. There are no federal requirements for vaccinations, as it is considered the police power of the state. All 50 states have some level of mandated vaccinations. While there are no federal requirements for vaccinations, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services does consider the number of healthcare staff with the vaccination a factor in its Inpatient Quality Reporting Program.

Further, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all U.S. healthcare workers get vaccinated annually for the flu. The CDC itself does not mandate immunizations, but its recommendations are impactful and considered in decisions made by state legislature. Essentia’s chief patient safety officer and the American College of Physicians both believe that healthcare workers have an ethical obligation to vaccinate against the flu. However, an ethical obligation does not necessarily mean a legal obligation.

The constitutionality of mandating vaccinations has been solidified, so long as it is necessary, not discriminatory and not arbitrary. The two common exemptions considered persuasive by the courts are medical exemptions and religious exemptions. Both are widely accepted by schools, workplaces and the judiciary. The judiciary traditionally examines medical expertise in its review of mandatory immunizations. This analysis is how the courts determine if the vaccination, and not getting the vaccination and being terminated as arbitrary.  In the case of the flu shot, the scientific evidence is undoubtedly sufficient to support a mandatory vaccination. Essentia is one of hundreds of healthcare systems that mandate the flu shot. Considering the common exceptions, the warning prior to termination and the clear scientific evidence to support the immunization, it is unlikely claims against Essentia will be successful.

2 thoughts on “Healthcare workers terminated for refusing the flu shot

  1. Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease

    From British Medical Journal:

    “The CDC pledges “To base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data, openly and objectively derived.” But Peter Doshi argues that in the case of influenza vaccinations and their marketing, this is not so.

    Promotion of influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies today. Twenty years ago, in 1990, 32 million doses of influenza vaccine were available in the United States. Today around 135 million doses of influenza vaccine annually enter the US market, with vaccinations administered in drug stores, supermarkets—even some drive-throughs. This enormous growth has not been fueled by popular demand but instead by a public health campaign that delivers a straightforward, who-in-their-right-mind-could-possibly-disagree message: influenza is a serious disease, we are all at risk of complications from influenza, the flu shot is virtually risk free, and vaccination saves lives. Through this lens, the lack of influenza vaccine availability for all 315 million US citizens seems to border on the unethical. Yet across the country, mandatory influenza vaccination policies have cropped up, particularly in healthcare facilities,1 precisely because not everyone wants the vaccination, and compulsion appears the only way to achieve high vaccination rates.2 Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims. The vaccine might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated.
    Now we are all “at risk” of serious complications

    Influenza vaccine production has grown parallel to increases in the perceived need for the vaccine. In the US, the first recommendations for annual influenza vaccination were made in 1960 (table1).⇓ Through the 1990s, the key objective of this policy was to reduce excess mortality. Because most of influenza deaths occurred in the…”

    View full text:

    I’m sure you vaxtremists will not pass this for public viewing. You’re losing your battle and you’re now getting desperate.


    1. You’re going to need a stronger argument than an opinion piece from an anthropologist who points out the “marketing” of vaccines from an ethical standpoint of raising questions, not from a scientific one of establishing the effectiveness or accuracy. Even from your own excerpt, Doshi doesn’t once point out how vaccine administration is less safe, only that society is “at risk” because vaccine “might be” less safe than claimed – although it’s kind of strange that he doesn’t claim vaccines lack benefits entirely.

      The entire article questions the methodology of CDC studies, but never once proves anything wrong. Medicine, especially vaccines, work differently across all humans. That isn’t a groundbreaking theory. Chemotherapy has different symptoms for cancer patients across all types; it doesn’t mean that the smart thing to do is to stop chemotherapy altogether because the rare few react atypically to treatment.

      It’ll be a sorry day when someone you love falls seriously ill because of your rejection of scientific truth, just so you can create your own alternative worldview.

      But forget science! You could totally be right: vaccines “might be” less safe than the actual flu itself! Makes sense.


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