From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
October 2009 Edition
The MNA appreciates the efforts of health care employers who are offering influenza vaccines to nurses and other health care workers, and we encourage members and others to take advantage of these vaccination opportunities understanding that—as with any decision—it is important to learn about the vaccines and make informed choices.
As we enter the flu season we want to update MNA members on the Massachusetts Department of Health’s recently issued emergency regulations for the vaccination of hospital employees against influenza. These DPH regulations are specific to both seasonal influenza and H1N1 (visit mass.gov/dph for details).
These regulations do NOT mandate the vaccination of hospital employees. Instead, they mandate that employers educate employees about the flu, make flu vaccines available, maintain records of employees receiving the vaccine and maintain records of the employees who declined the vaccine.
This is an emergency regulation which is in effect for 90 days. Subsequent regulations may be promulgated after the 90 days and may have changes. We will continue to monitor the progress and will update you of any changes.
This year, DPH does require signed declination forms but it does NOT require that you provide a reason for declining. The DPH promulgated declination form is on this page.
The MNA is in the midst of raising concerns with the DPH over its recommendation/suggestion that a hospital employee’s promulgated declination form be added to the "employee’s personnel record." We plan to indicate that this be altered to state that the form be added to an employee’s "confidential medical record" to ensure privacy (this is consistent with other vaccinations such as Hepatitis B).
Also important to note is that Rep. Peter Koutoujian filed a piece of legislation specific to flu prevention in January of this year. H. 2100, An Act Providing for the Prevention of Influenza in Health Care Workers and High Risk Patients, was reviewed and endorsed by three MNA Congresses, including the Congress on Nursing Practice, the Congress on Health Policy and Legislation and the Congress on Health and Safety. The MNA Board voted to support the bill at its September meeting. This bill would require hospitals to offer free vaccines to health care workers and also require that workers receive education about the vaccine—but NOT require mandatory vaccination or require that an RN indicate why s/he is declining the vaccine. The MNA Board feels that the approach outlined in the Koutoujian bill has the best chance of resulting in a high number of health care workers actually agreeing to get the vaccine voluntarily.