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More hospitals require staff to get flu shots

Some health care workers fired for refusing to get vaccinated

JANESVILLE, Wis. - A handful of health care workers nationwide have been fired for refusing mandated flu vaccines.

In his 14 years as a paramedic, Chris Kaiser said this has been the worst flu season he's ever seen. He said receiving the flu vaccine was a big priority for him, especially because he is often coming in and out of the emergency room at St. Mary's Janesville.

"I'd like to keep myself healthy," Kaiser said. "I certainly don't want to spread infection between patients. I would hate to think as a health care provider, I was spreading flu amongst our patients that I saw. That seems counterproductive to what we're supposed to be doing here, which is keeping people healthy."

"Our main motivation is how do we keep our staff and our patients and our visitors safe." said Chris Smith, director of safety and quality at St Mary's Janesville. "So, clearly, getting a flu shot is what's recommended by all the experts. And so safety of our patients is our main motivation."

St. Mary's is part of a growing number of hospitals requiring staff to get the flu shot. A handful of health care workers across the country have been fired for not complying with their workplace mandate.

St. Mary's workers do have the option to waive the shot for allergic and religious reasons.


"If they don't qualify for a waiver, then according to our policy, they have 45 days to comply with getting the shot or they are terminated," Smith said.

But for health care workers such as Kaiser, ethics outweigh personal choice, especially when lives are at risk.

"An injection seems a little harsh in some cases," Kaiser said. "And I can see how some people would have objections to that as well. And if you have a strong reason to opt out of it, I can see an employer allowing you to do that. However, it's the right thing to do. Just like washing your hands after every patient, just like keeping you education up, it's the right thing to do to keep yourself healthy, your family healthy, and the patients you take care of healthy."

Eight of St. Mary's Janesville's 470 employees have waived the requirement.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2011 more than 400 hospitals in the U.S. required the vaccine for their employees.

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