Friday, September 4, 2009

Emory, Grady make seasonal flu shots mandatory; Interesting legal conundrum for institutions mandating swine flu vaccinations

The Atlanta Journal Constitution tells us that Atlanta's large public hospital, Grady Memorial, is requiring that seasonal flu shots be given to all employees.
"Several factors led Emory officials to make taking the seasonal flu vaccine mandatory — protecting patients and providing a safe environment for workers; the fact that the seasonal flu and swine flu will be circulating at the same time; and the successful implementation of mandatory flu vaccinations in other healthcare systems."
But the LA Times describes research by Daniel Perez et al. at University of Maryland, where ferrets were coinfected with both swine and 2 seasonal flu viruses.   They found "the pandemic virus, commonly known as swine flu, grows much faster than seasonal flu viruses and is thus less likely to exchange genetic material with them."  Only the swine flu virus spread between the animals.  Co-circulation caused no specific problems.
"Grady officials said similar mandates could follow for health care workers to take the swine flu vaccine, which is expected to be available in mid-October."
Given the liability shield issued for swine flu vaccine through the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, mandatory swine flu vaccinations could open a legal can of worms.  Employers that mandate vaccines will assume all liability for any injuries to employees that result, since manufacturers, those giving injections and government officials have all been given immunity from any liability by the Act.

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