Get your flu shot, or else
The Great Flu Shot Flap of 2009 rages on, with some folks steadfastly refusing to get vaccinated despite being urged constantly to do so. I guess Bill Maher melted down over it last week, and a couple of the dim bulbs of the right are also urging their lifeless audience to skip the shots.
Closer to home, a reader who works at OHSU up on Pill Hill wrote me the other day to complain that everyone who works at that fine institution is being pressured to get flu shots, even if he or she doesn't work around patients. Reportedly, every employee is being asked to sign a document stating that they have been vaccinated, or affirmatively refuse. If one refuses, apparently the requirement is to wear a mask in clinical areas of the institution. It's not clear whether the refusers will also be required to wear some sort of other identification. Perhaps a badge with a fat swine on it?
A recent e-directive reportedly sent around to managers up there explained:
Employees will be asked to complete and sign an Immunization Election/Declination Form whenever possible at the immunization site where vaccines are being given, once the period for tracking declinations is determined by the Influenza Planning Cabinet (IPC). Employee Health will collect and retain this information.The reader adds:
Managers will receive regular reports indicating each of their employees' vaccination status for both seasonal and H1N1. It is each manager's responsibility to follow up with any employee for whom no form or vaccination is recorded by Employee Health and remind the employee to either get vaccinated or return the form declining vaccination. The timeline for securing completed Immunization Election/Declination Forms will be communicated as determined by the Influenza Planning Cabinet (IPC).
Employees who wish to decline vaccination may complete and sign a form and send directly to Employee Health at any time. A separate form must be signed for each type of vaccine the employee is declining.
* Immunization Election/Declination Form - Seasonal [pdf 35k]
* Immunization Election/Declination Form - H1N1 [pdf 35k]
* Vaccine Information Statement
If employee refuses to sign form declining vaccination:
1. Note refusal to sign form in the presence of a witness.
2. Advise employee that refusal to sign does not release employee from compliance with wearing a mask. Inform employee that refusing to comply will be considered insubordination and may be subject to disciplinary action, including immediate termination. Repeated failure to comply may also result in discipline, up to and including termination of employment.
3. Document Immunization Election/Declination Form as follows: "Form delivered. Employee refused to sign. Compliance expectations explained." Sign and date the form, have witness sign and date, and send to Employee Health.
I’m finding the whole thing rather panic-driven and faintly double-speak, given all of the emphasis upon HIPAA requirements... all of a sudden, they’re collecting health data on each and every employee, to which departmental managers will have access. The implication is that decliners will be "tracked"... whatever that means.I don't know. At a hospital it's probably better to be safe than sorry. And if they ever develop a vaccine against arrogance or stupidity, I'd like to see this kind of program instituted at City Hall. Get the shot or wear a gag mask.
I’m frankly puzzled, and a bit alarmed, as a civil libertarian. But maybe I’m be alarmist....
I’m not a big fan of influenza vaccinations in that they tend to treat the viral source from the prior year. Viruses mutate quickly. By the time a vaccine is developed, a new virus has usually arisen. The people who benefit the most, so far as I can tell, are the pharmaceutical companies involved in developing and producing vaccines in a panic.
I don’t think *every* employee at OHSU desperately needs to be vaccinated. I think we can be a whole lot more judicious in our application of a very limited resource, especially in the case of the H1N1 vaccine… if it ever arrives in time.
Meanwhile, my big challenge, having skipped a couple of opportunities to get the ball rolling, is figuring out who's got seasonal flu shots available this week.