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Can a facility’s administration force nurses to take the flu vaccine? What are my rights?

Nurse attorney Nancy Brent, MS, JD, RN, addresses a nurse’s question about her right to choose whether or not to receive an influenza vaccination.

Question:

Dear Nancy,

I was wondering if a facility’s administration can force nurses to take the flu vaccine? What are my rights?

Tracey

Nancy replies:

Dear Tracey,

Your question raises many legal and ethical issues that cannot be easily responded to in this column. However, some general comments can be made.

Ethically, when a nurse works with patients, it is generally supported by the nursing profession that those nurses should get the flu vaccine. Indeed, the American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements clearly supports this throughout its many provisions, including Provision 3, which states, “The nurse promotes, advocates for and protects the rights, health and safety of patients.”

Not getting a flu shot can result in serious risk to patients, to co-workers and to yourself.

There are some individuals, including nurses, who opt out of taking the flu shot. The refusal is most often based on religion reasons, a medical reason or a philosophical objection to the flu vaccine.

However, there is controversy over whether flu shots should be voluntary or mandated among healthcare workers, including nurses. Although most states recommend that healthcare workers get flu vaccinations, only 21 states have a law that requires healthcare workers to get flu vaccinations and the law in states that require the vaccination vary based on healthcare settings, exemptions, types of workers and enforcement methods.

Likewise, many employers are mandating flu shots unless an established exemption is present. For those nurses who are members of a union, unions have fought mandatory flu shot requirements when a refusal results in a job termination.

Interestingly, the CDC has reported that for the final 2013-1014 flu season, flu vaccination coverage among healthcare workers was 75.2%. The highest coverage of healthcare workers where flu vaccination requirements were in place was 97.8%.

Ask your nurse administrators about your state’s laws in relation to the flu vaccination or find out from you state board of nursing. In addition, consulting with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state about your ability to refuse the mandatory requirement at your work place and its ramifications, would be a good idea.

Sincerely,
Nancy

By | 2018-06-06T16:47:08+00:00 March 9th, 2015|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|2 Comments

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, Nurse.com's legal information columnist, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist.  Nancy Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice.  Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state.  Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state. To ask Nancy a question, email BrentsLaw@nurse.com.

2 Comments

  1. Kim October 18, 2018 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Can you please list the 21 states that are legally requiring nurses to get the flu vaccine. I live in Colorado, which does require it, and I would love to move to a state that doesn’t. This is fundamentally a point of freedom. This country was founded on freedoms, and I for one would love to have the freedom again (I moved here from Texas) to say “No” to the flu shot. Even though our state allows for philosophical exemption of vaccines, our hospital tells us that we can not get a exemption from a philosophical or religious standpoint. And if you do get a medical exemption (the only one our hospital allows), you have to wear a mask all winter (through April). I don’t have a reason for a medical exemption, so I suck it up and take the vaccine. But I don’t want to for the rest of my career.

  2. Wanda December 7, 2018 at 11:34 am - Reply

    I would like to know the states that do not require the flu vaccine and if they have multi state licensure. I do not want the flu vaccine and respect those who do but I should not be forced to put something in my body I feel is harmful. Sadly these facilities that require us to wear mask just cause the patients to question if the flu vaccine is harmful when they ask why we are wearing the mask and we tell them we did not want to receive the flu vaccine.

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