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MNA Supports DPH Plan Requiring Health Care Employers to Provide Flu Vaccination to Health Care Workers

MNA Encourages its Members Become Vaccinated

CANTON, MA – As the state prepares for the upcoming influenza season, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), the state’s largest union of registered nurses and health professionals, strongly supports emergency regulations by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health requiring health care employers to offer nurses and other health care workers flu vaccines, along with education about the vaccine’s benefits and risks.

The MNA is also encouraging its members to avail themselves of the vaccine as a means of protecting themselves so they can care for their patients. The MNA represents more than 23,000 RNs and health care professionals working in more than 85 facilities across the state, and its members staff more than 70 percent of the state’s acute care hospitals.

“It is imperative that the health care workforce be vaccinated against the flu so that they can be on hand to deliver care at a time of intense need,” said Julie Pinkham, RN, executive director of MNA. “But that decision must be an informed decision to ensure that those workers who may be medically susceptible to complications from the vaccine do not put themselves at risk.”

The new regulations require that employers educate employees about the risks and benefits of the vaccine, offer flu vaccine free of charge, provide employees with the right to decline the vaccine and to maintain records of employees receiving the vaccine or those who have made an informed decision to decline the vaccine.

The only issue of concern for the MNA is with the DPH’s directive to hospitals to include a copy of a form signed by any employee declining the vaccine in the employee’s personnel file. The MNA believes the forms should be made part of the employee’s confidential medical record to assure privacy.

The MNA, with the support of its Congress on Occupational Health & Safety and Emergency Preparedness Task Force, has been actively working to educate its members about the issue, as well as all aspects of the H1N1 flu crisis, by publishing information in their monthly publication, sending out email alerts and posting a special H1N1 page on their web site.

The DPH regulations mirror legislation filed by State Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham), An Act Providing for the Prevention of Influenza in Health Care Workers and High Risk Patients, which make the provision of flu vaccines by employers to employees as well as high risk elderly patients an annual requirement. The MNA has endorsed this bill, and will be providing testimony in support at a hearing scheduled for Sep. 22.