News & Events

September 25 2009 Mandatory Flu Vaccination Policies Spreading in a number of states

In many states, hospitals, healthcare systems, and in the case of New York State, the NY Department of Health, are beginning to mandate flu vaccination.

This is not the case in Massachusetts to our knowledge. MNA is in close contact with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on their flu initiatives. MDPH has strongly stated their opposition to a mandated vaccination program.

Note however: MA healthcare providers are required to OFFER vaccine to workers in Massachusetts. MDPH has urged that workers be allowed to decline vaccination without stating a reason, but by signing a simple declension form, posted at:

Mary Crotty RN JD

Massachusetts Nurses Association
W 781 830-5743

From: Rosen, Jonathan []
Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 3:54 PM
Mandatory Flu Vaccination Policies Spreading

New York State Department of Health recently enacted regulation requiring healthcare institutions in the state to require all healthcare workers to be vaccination for the flu. In addition, a growing number of hospitals and healthcare systems have reported adopting mandatory flu vaccination policies. Most of these policies require all employees (and others such as volunteers, students, contractor workers) to have the flu vaccine. Most provide that persons not vaccinated must wear a surgical mask while at work during the flu season.

A limited Internet search of media reports conducted September 25, 2009 identified the following hospitals or healthcare systems as having some version of a mandatory flu vaccination/masking policy:

Nation-wide: HCA
Alaska: Providence Medical (Anchorage) – attempted in 2008 but backed off because of employee and union response
Georgia: Emory Healthcare
Grady Hospitals:
Illinois: Loyola Hospital System
Iowa: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, (temporarily suspended under an agreement with SEIU Local 1999 pending arbitration)
Quad City Hospitals:
Missouri: Barnes Jewish
North Carolina: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Pennsylvania: Geisinger (Wyoming Valley)
Memorial Hospital (York)
Virginia: University of Virginia system (UVA)
Washington: Multicare Health System, including Tacoma General
Virginia Mason, Washington:
West Virginia: Charleston Area Medical Center
Wisconsin: Marshfield Clinic

These policies vary in some of the following ways, based on information in the media reports:

  • Some cover only seasonal flu or only H1N1, while most cover both
  • Exemptions permitted for medical and religious reasons, in some policies
  • Policy start dates and length of season for wearing masks vary
  • Discipline for employees not complying varies from automatic termination to letter in employee’s file
  • Some policies plan to identify workers refusing vaccination with colored masks (red, for example) or positively identify those accepting the vaccine (“2009” on their employee badge)
  • Actual time mask required to be worn may exclude breaks, lunch and non patient care activities

Interestingly, many of the hospitals adopting these mandatory policies report very good flu vaccination rates in 2008, from 70 – 90% .

Finally, the mandatory wearing of surgical masks is designed primarily to punish healthcare workers who won’t accept the flu vaccine. In the news article reprinted below, a hospital Chief Medical Officer explains “Our goal is to enhance vaccination rates, not mask use.” And those who don’t get the shot must wear the hospital’s equivalent of the scarlet letter of shame.