October 15, 2009
Cynthia Leonor Garza
American Federation of Teachers Strongly Opposes Mandatory
Flu Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers
Union Passes a Resolution Supporting a Comprehensive Influenza Prevention Program
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday strongly opposing mandatory seasonal and H1N1 influenza immunization, and instead, encouraging its members to weigh the risks and benefits of flu vaccinations and make their own informed decisions. It also encouraged employers to develop comprehensive pandemic flu plans.
Mandatory flu vaccinations—and disciplining or firing workers who do not comply—is now a reality in New York State and in various other healthcare systems and hospitals across the country. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Joint Commission proposes mandatory immunizations.
“We cannot afford to be shortsighted or narrow in our approach to dealing with this pandemic,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Immunization should be one of many tools—including respirator protections, exposure-control strategies and post-exposure medication—used by healthcare employers to protect patients and healthcare workers.”
The AFT Web site, www.aft.org, includes fact sheets and updates on H1N1 for every division of the union, including healthcare; early childhood, K-12 and higher education; and public employees.
Candice Owley, R.N., who is chair of AFT Healthcare’s program and policy council and president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, added: “Mandatory vaccinations should not discourage other efforts to prevent the spread of infection, such as promoting good hand hygiene, nor should they create complacency and a false sense of security among employers.”
The AFT has encouraged employers to develop a comprehensive pandemic flu plan that includes an employee immunization campaign. Employers should ensure healthcare workers are well-informed about the risks, benefits, myths and misunderstandings related to flu vaccines. Vaccinations should be provided during work hours at the work site and at no cost to the employee. Research shows that with informational campaigns, voluntary participation rates in getting the flu vaccination can rise to 90 percent.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.