Roughly half of health workers skip the immunizations, raising two concerns: If doctors and nurses get sick, who will treat what could be millions of Americans reeling from seasonal or swine flu? And could infected health workers make things worse by spreading flu to patients?
New York, the first state to be hard-hit by swine flu, is requiring all health workers to get immunized against both types of flu. Other states are weighing whether to follow suit.
But shots for all health workers may not be an easy sell.
Fewer than half of them got flu vaccinations last year, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of about 1,000 workers...
"...If health care workers have concerns about the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that has been around for decades, I'm sure they're going to have those same concerns about a vaccine that we've never used before," said Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic vaccine specialist.
...Some large hospitals have adopted rules requiring employees to get flu shots. Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago and Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia recently joined a handful of hospitals that have made seasonal flu shots mandatory for all workers. Some also plan to include swine flu. Several infectious disease groups support required flu vaccination for health workers.
...Dr. Joyce Lammert, Virginia Mason's chief of medicine, said if testing shows the new vaccine is safe and effective, and if supplies are adequate, the hospital will make that mandatory, too.
"We feel that getting immunized is so important," Lammert said. "In some ways, I'm glad H1N1 is out there. It raises awareness of the seriousness of the disease."From the Sept. 8 Guardian: Dr. Crippen: Just don't try giving me the swine flu vaccine