DFW Hospitals Require Flu Shots, But Allow Exemptions

As a stronger-than-normal influenza outbreak sweeps the nation, a growing list of groups are recommending mandatory flu vaccinations for all healthcare workers.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has urged mandatory immunizations, except for staff with valid medical reasons or religious objections. The ACP estimates that 40,000 to 50,000 Americans die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.  The American Medical Association endorsed mandatory shots for nursing-home employees with direct patient contact. The American Nurses Association backs mandatory shots if required by individual states.

Mandatory immunization appears to be the standard policy for healthcare workers at Dallas-Fort Worth hospitals.

“We crafted our policy to provide an avenue for those legitimate exceptions while maintaining full protection for our patients,” said Steven Leach, MD, chief medical officer for UT Southwestern university hospitals, and professor of internal medicine. “Not only do we expect unvaccinated employees to wear a mask, but also anyone who may have symptoms of a respiratory infection, whether vaccinated or not.”

The vaccination policy includes UTSW faculty, staff, and students working or training in its hospitals and clinics. They must be immunized or decline in writing for medical, religious, or personal reasons by Nov. 15. Vaccinations are provided free of charge.

Adam Myers, MD, chief medical officer of Methodist Health System, said “most Methodist Health System employees and volunteers have already received the vaccination.”

Wendell Watson, Texas Health Resources (THR) director of public relations for, said THR revised the its immunization policy in 2011 to require its employees be immunized with flu vaccine as a condition of employment. Employees exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons must wear a mask during flu season in THR facilities that provide patient care.

Laurie Holloway, spokesperson for Children’s Medical Center, said the hospital has required flu shots for employees for two years. Requests for exemptions are reviewed by a committee and, if the exemption is denied through an appeals process, the employee must be vaccinated or face termination, she said.

Baylor Health Care System also requires flu vaccinations for its employees. Those without an exemption who fail to do so face termination.

A survey by CDC researchers found that in 2011, more than 400 U.S. hospitals required flu vaccinations for their employees and 29 hospitals fired unvaccinated employees. According to federal data, only 63 percent of all health care workers had gotten the vaccine as of November. The government is aiming for a 90 percent vaccination rate among healthcare workers by 2020.

According to a December study in the journal Vaccine, Texas is among several states requiring flu vaccination for healthcare personnel. However only three—Arkansas, Maine and Rhode Island—have penalties for those who refuse.

The flu vaccine is effective 62 percent of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) . Through May, about 41 percent of Texas were vaccinated for the flu. According to the CDC, 1 out of 3 patients with an acute respiratory infection at a Texas test site in late December and early January tested positive for the flu.

Flu deaths have been rising and have exceeded the CDC’s threshold of epidemic.

Steve Jacob is editor of D Healthcare Daily and author of  Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at steve.jacob@dmagazine.com.

Posted in Hospitals, News.
  • bogus

    “the employee must be vaccinated or face termination” When an employee has an allergic reaction, or develops complications, from the mandatory vaccination…is there any legal recourse or do the employees sign a company protection contract?

  • Sam C.

    One more reason they should not be mandatory: http://health.yahoo.net/news/s/nm/insight-evidence-grows-for-narcolepsy-link-to-gsk-swine-flu-shot

    As a healthcare worker, I would be willing to take the “mandatory” flu shot if they did not first make me sign the waiver that says they’re not responsible if the flu shot kills me or disables me in some way. Double standard, really… especially if they make it mandatory.

  • RN

    Hospital employees get a Hepatitis B vaccine and don’t scream and cry….how is this different? Read the literature and become informed. Getting the vaccination is the only preventative treatment available.

    • Sarah R

      The only preventative treatment available, RN??? How about a strong immune system? There are hundreds of nasty organisms that can make one sick. So you’re saying we should suppress the entire immune system (which is what immunizations do) for 2 strains? Which mutate anyway. The CDC itself says the vaccine is only effective 62% of the time. I would rather take a chance with the flu than with the horrendous side effects (sometimes long term) the toxic shot can cause for such a pitiful effective rate. Facilities need to educate employees and send them home if they come in sick, not fire healthy ones. The body is absolutely amazing and can heal itself of many, many ailments…if it is not continually tampered with.

    • Melissa

      I really wish people (esp. RN’s and DR’s) wouldn’t perpetuate the idea that the flu shot is the ONLY preventative treatment . This couldn’t be further from the truth – even if we guess correctly the flu strain that is active, the effectiveness is minimal. Now factor in the hundreds of flu strains AND flu “like” viruses that are NOT included in the yearly mandatory vaccines.

      What you now have is thousands to millions of people who are injecting known toxic chemicals into their bodies year after year after year. And they STILL can get any one of a couple hundred different strains of flu or flu-like viruses. So which is the greater gamble here???

      I would rather see hospitals making vitamin supplements (Vit. C, D, Zinc, garlic and maybe Colloidal Silver) mandatory during flu season. Boosting the immune system will effectively increase your resistance to ALL VIRUSES – NOT JUST 3 OR 4 LIKE THE FLU SHOT. This is common sense. Diversify where you get your information and know just WHO is doing the research. It’s no secret that flu shots used to be given only to the few, now we give it to healthy people and kids! Flu season has become the Big Pharma version of Black Friday. It’s about money.

  • RN

    Sarah R I agree with you completely. If the administrators of the healthcare facilities would only stop and think of what they are doing when they make these immunizations mandatory, I think they would come up with a better plan. I wonder if they realize that the physicians are not made to take the immunizations, because they are not employees of the facilities. And I have heard many physicians refuse the immunizations for the same reasons I do, they don’t want to put that unknown into their bodies and possibly suffer adverse effects. And the physicians are still allowed to care for their patients. I believe that hospitals and other healthcare facilities are rewarded in some fashion for pushing all of these immunizations on their employees in direct patient care, but yet those not in direct patient care do not have to get them. The reasons I have been told that office workers, business office employees etc., don’t have to get the shot is that they work usually in closed environments and don’t have direct patient contact, but if they go into a patient care area, then they are to wear a mask if they are not vaccinated. FOLKS THE FLU VIRUS IS IN THE AIR AND DOES NOT STOP AT THE BUSINESS OFFICE OR ADMINISTRATORS DOOR! The same air that nurses and patients breathe is the same air that the business office and administrators breathe, so use some common sense, and don’t force those who do not want the flu vaccine to get it or face termination.