Mandating Flu Shots

April 4, 2013

In our state and across the nation, there are countless mandates placed on towns, cities, businesses and individuals. Sometimes they are well intended but oftentimes place a burden on a person or organization, whether they seek to improve education standards or ensure certain local services. However, there is always a cost involved that may or may not be visible to the average resident.

Some costly mandates require towns and cities to spend great sums of taxpayer dollars that might otherwise be better spent by local leaders. Many times, these mandates complicate already tough planning or operating decisions. Whenever legislation creates a new mandate, I am hesitant to support such a measure.

This week, I would like to share some information with you about one proposal that is currently before the General Assembly. The Public Health Committee is considering legislation that would require health care employees who have direct contact with patients or residents to be immunized against the influenza virus.

More specifically, Senate Bill 1128, An Act Concerning Influenza Immunizations for Health Care Employees would require hospitals, nursing home facilities and emergency medical service organizations to make sure that their employees who may have direct contact with a patient or resident are immunized against the influenza virus as recommended by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On March 30th, the proposal had a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building. Many groups turned out to testify on the measure, including nurses, doctors, and representatives of the AARP, hospitals, residential care homes, health care employee unions and others.

While the proposal may be well intended, the mandate would create additional complications as was discussed in the hearing. Those who care for patients or residents expressed concerns over the mandate that would force health care employees to be immunized even if it was against their will. After reviewing some of the testimony, it is clear that many of those who would be required to get the vaccination oppose the measure.

Some referenced that many hospitals or health care centers already have immunization plans in place, requiring employees to either receive the vaccine or fill out a form explaining why they declined. If an employee declined, they would be required to wear a mask if they were within three feet of a patient. According to submitted testimony, one health care center in our state had 93% of employees vaccinated with only 7% declining. Others also referenced the varying effectiveness of the vaccine.

Ultimately, the Public Health Committee will decide whether S.B. 1128 moves forward or not. Their deadline to take action on passing any remaining legislation is April 5th. While I do not serve on the committee, I would not support the measure in its current form if it came up for a vote in the Senate. If passed, the mandate would take effect over the summer on July 1, 2013. To learn more about this proposal, please visit the Public Health Committee website at