Mandatory Flu Shots for Health Care Workers

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tami Oppedahl was in a line of workers that snaked around the sidewalk at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. She came over from the fundraising department.
“First day we’re in line, so we drove over from my other building just to make sure we got it today.”
Oppedahl was getting a free seasonal flu vaccine. The H1N1 – or swine flu – vaccines are not widely available yet. Under the Health System’s new policy she’ll have to get the swine flu shot too. She says getting the shots makes sense.
“It gives added attention to the fact that flus are going around and they’re highly contagious and in my experience since I started taking the shot I don’t get sick in the winter.”
Dr. Allan Siefkin is the Chief Medical Officer at the UC Davis Health System. He helped develop the mandatory policy but says there are some exceptions for medical reasons like allergies or underlying health conditions.
“It’s at least 10,000 people that we want to get vaccinated if at all possible, and if they can’t be vaccinated or won’t be able to be vaccinated for religious reasons than in fact they’ll be required to wear a mask.”
Siefkin says surprisingly less than half of doctors, nurses and orderlies get flu shots. Siefkin says this year with the threat of H1N1 flu virus that had to change.
“We’re trying to follow the science to protect our patients, number one, but the second very, very important reason is we have to keep our employees here at work.”
But some employees don’t agree with the mandatory policy, like Tuong Nguin a laboratory scientist.
“I get mine because I think it’s a good thing, but I really don’t like the fact that they kind of force you to do it. But I guess in the long run it’s good for the patients.”
So far UC Davis Health System officials say there is not any organized employee opposition to the new policy. UC San Francisco and UC Irvine medical centers also have a similar mandatory flu shot policy for employees this year.