At least one employee was fired for violating Mercy's policy requiring flu shots, a spokeswoman for the hospital said on Tuesday.
The nurse was granted a religious exemption from the annual influenza vaccine while working for St. Anthony's Medical Center prior to its acquisition by Mercy this year, organizer of an outdoor protest said Tuesday. from Mercy South.
"That's the problem here, they declined the religious exemption," said Nelia Aubuchon, who said she was only close to the licensed nurse.
Mercy implemented its influenza vaccination policy in 2016. This year, the company received 170 requests for medical or religious exemptions from influenza vaccine among its 44,000 employees in four states. Although most applications have been accepted, employees whose exemptions were denied were notified this week, according to a statement.
"The goal of our flu vaccination policy is simple: protection against the flu virus saves lives, especially those of our most vulnerable patients," the statement said.
The 2017-2018 influenza season has been the most severe in decades, with approximately 79,000 deaths and 960,000 hospitalizations attributable to the virus. Lower than average vaccination rates (37% of adults) contributed to the wave of disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
CDC recommends that all health care workers be vaccinated against influenza and states in a position statement that mandatory vaccination policies "can improve patient safety."
Although the influenza vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing the flu, it can still reduce the severity of symptoms and slow down the spread of the infection. The hospital environment is particularly vulnerable to epidemics because of high-risk patients – including pregnant women, newborns and people with chronic diseases – and the suppressed immune system, doctors said.
More than two-thirds of US hospitals require their employees to be vaccinated against influenza. Immunization rates in hospitals with flu warrants reach 97%, compared to 79% of workers in hospitals with no such rule, according to a survey conducted in 2017 by the Journal of Influenza Immunization. the American Medical Association.
In addition to Mercy, local hospital systems BJC HealthCare and SSM Health have employee flu vaccination requirements, which include exemptions for medical or religious reasons.BJC implemented the influenza vaccination policy in 2008 for all employees. More than 98% of BJC's 26,000 employees received the vaccine that year and most of the others received waivers. According to an internal report, eight employees were fired that year for failing to comply with the policy. Updated figures were not available on Tuesday.
Last year, Essentia Health, Minnesota, fired about 50 employees who refused to be vaccinated against the flu after a union representing some workers did not get a shot at it. court injunction to end layoffs, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
However, the US Department of Justice has reported recent opposition to immunization warrants through a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a Wisconsin county that had dismissed an assistant in a home. public pension after refusing a flu shot for religious reasons.