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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Nurses union files suit against hospital for mandatory flu shot policy

In a legal challenge that could set a precedent for flu shot mandates, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has filed suit challenging a proposed mandatory flu vaccination policy at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. Under the policy, workers can forego the flu shot for medical or religious reasons, but otherwise could be subjected to discipline that could include job termination, the union charges in the suit.

“The state regulations around this issue are crystal clear,” the MNA said in statement. “A hospital cannot mandate that a nurse be vaccinated, only that they be provided with information and the opportunity to be vaccinated. It further clearly states that hospitals cannot take punitive action against a nurse who declines to be vaccinated. The Brigham’s policy violates this regulation and the clearly expressed right of nurses to decline vaccination without fear of retribution, so we are asking the court to help us ensure the law is followed and the Brigham respects the rights of nurses.”

Beyond the specifics of the lawsuit, the MNA opposes mandatory flu vaccination because:

  • Many nurses have had severe reactions to the vaccine, and, nationally, there have been thousands of serious documented reactions to these vaccines in recent years.
  • The flu vaccines are at best an educated guess (between 50 – 60 percent effective) with no guarantee of preventing a specific flu.
  • Nurses take great pains to employ infection control practices to prevent flu transmission
  • And even when we vaccinate workers, there are no policies to ensure that the thousands of visitors who come in and out of the hospital are vaccinated and take proper precautions to prevent spread of the virus.
“This lawsuit is about holding an employer accountable for following law and seeks to protect the individual rights of nurses to dictate what goes into their bodies,” the MNA said.

No comment was available from the hospital as this story was filed.