Bioethicist: Health workers must get H1N1 vaccine

On, University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor Arthur Caplan takes a tough stand on flu vaccines for health professionals, imploring them to stop “whining” and “moaning.” “Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, nurses’ aides, and anyone else who has regular contact with patients ought to be required to get a flu shot or find another line of work,” Caplan writes. According to Caplan, a 100 percent workers’ vaccination rate can cut patient flu deaths and worker sick days by about 40 percent, and thus health workers who claim mandated flu shots are an infringement of their rights are forgetting a key ethical tenet of their profession, that they put the interests of the patient above their own.


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It’s the idea of rights infringement that really sets Caplan off:

Excuse me? What rights might those be? The right to infect your patient and kill them? The right to create havoc in the health care workforce if swine flu hits hard? The right to ignore all the evidence of safety and efficacy of vaccines thus continuing to promulgate an irrational fear on the part of the public of the best protection babies, pregnant women, the elderly and the frail have against the flu? Those rights?

Caplan’s a fellow and former associate director of the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics think tank.


A just-released survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists finds that health workers are asking pharmacists the same questions (PDF) that patients are asking:

  • Is the H1N1 vaccine safe? (Patients: 52%, Hospital Employees: 54%)
  • Do I need to get the H1N1 vaccine? (Patients: 33%, Hospital Employees: 43%)
  • Will there be enough H1N1 vaccine to around? (Patients: 27%, Hospital Employees: 27%)

The ASHP also says that “While pharmacists are authorized to administer vaccinations to adults [in most states], the survey also finds that most hospitals are not planning to utilize pharmacists for this service. ” The organization – made up of 35,000 members who include pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy students – is encouraging hospitals and health systems to use  pharmacists to administer vaccines to increase vaccination rates. The survey also looks at other H1N1 influenza preparedness issues as well.

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