Oregon Nurses Association Attempts to Change Oregon’s Vaccination Law

The nurses have the support of labor unions and the Oregon Health Care Association, but the hospital association has raised objections

February 1, 2012 --The flu vaccine is widely available this time of year, from doctor’s offices to pharmacies to work places. For most people, it’s a choice, but for healthcare workers in Oregon and around the country, that choice is becoming increasingly threatened.

Recent flu seasons and the previous threat of an H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic have led policymakers across the country to focus on programs to protect the public health. New York, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, and other states have all grappled with policies to ensure that healthcare workers are the last stop to spread the flu. Oregon is now considering that approach.

The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) believes that all nurses and healthcare workers should get an influenza vaccination, but not as a condition of employment. Currently Oregon law (ORS 433.407) says that facilities that employ healthcare workers must offer vaccines, but cannot require people to get vaccinated as a condition of employment.

The ONA supports legislation, introduced by the Senate Healthcare Committee (Senate Bill 1503) that would require employers to educate their employees about vaccines, give them the option to decline, and protect their decision in a private health record.

Access to vaccinations and education, when combined with other methods to prevent influenza transmission, are sufficient and effective in protecting patients and workers, according to Jack Dempsey, the ONA’s director of government affairs.

The legislation also has the support of labor unions and the Oregon Health Care Association, but is opposed by the hospital association (the Oregon Association of Hospital and Health Systems), which wants individual hospitals to be able to decide what’s best for them.

“We support repealing the language from current statute (that prevents healthcare facilities from requiring vaccinations) to allow for flexibility, community by community, hospital by hospital, provider by provider,” said Andy Van Pelt, its director of communications. “Oregon is the only state that has language in the statutes that prevents the vaccination from being a condition of employment.”

But Dempsey said this approach misses the mark. “If we go that route, what’s going to happen is that a few facilities will take extreme measures while the vast majority will be able to continue to do nothing (to encourage healthcare workers to be vaccinated). “An education approach is better than a threat.”

The hospital association doesn’t support a blanket mandate, and, similar to the ONA, wants to see vaccination rates increase among healthcare workers, Van Pelt said.

But, allowing individual healthcare facilities to decide what works best for them makes more sense, he added. “We think it’s (changing the language of the law) a first step and allows for some conversation about what works best.”

The ONA has evaluated strategies that have and haven’t worked at individual healthcare facilities that have implemented a variety of procedures and policies related to influenza vaccinations for their healthcare workers.

“We’ve seen the scarlet letter approach, the shame approach, and the masking approach,” Dempsey said. “But for the most part we’ve seen that these facilities haven’t been able to implement their approaches to increasing vaccination rates fairly. They tend to exclude physicians and target nurses.”

Nationally, 63.5 percent of healthcare workers received the vaccine during the 2010-11 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A website for the Oregon Legislative Workgroup on Healthcare Workers states that in 2009, about half of Oregon healthcare workers were vaccinated for influenza.

A 2010-11 survey conducted by the Office for Oregon Health Policy and Research showed that 69 percent of employees in Oregon’s hospitals and 52 percent of employees in long-term care facilities were vaccinated during that same time period. The Healthy People 2020 goal for vaccination of healthcare workers is 90 percent.

The Senate bill also includes a data collection component allowing officials to monitor vaccination rates among healthcare workers, assess why they aren’t getting the vaccine and thus respond accordingly.

“This (SB 1503) approach raises rates and cuts back on animosity.” Dempsey said. “It’s a first step. We might find that we need to do something more heavy handed, but it’s not necessary or effective at this point.”

The Oregon Nurses Association was recently award a mini-grant from the Department of Human Services Oregon Immunization Program and is actively promoting nurses to become immunized, educating them through social media, and electronic and print media.

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If flu vaccines were PROVEN safe and effective, it would be easy to get people to comply. The truth is flu vaccines are not effective and have been shown to CAUSE illness and injury.

As a nurse I am quite capable of reading the package insert to all vaccines. I am also quite capable of accessing and understanding research data regarding vaccines and the illnesses they are supposed to prevent. The fact that vaccines are being made mandatory needs to be addressed. Why are these mandates being made? Why now? What studies have been done in the past to even base these mandates on? What follow up studies are being done by these facilities that are mandating these vaccines? What active surveillance is being done to accurately measure adverse events on all healthcare workers receiving these vaccines? These are just a few points I have pondered. But the main point I want to make in this issue is that mandating anyone take a vaccine or another invasive medical procedure is unconstitutional and begs legal action. Vaccines do cause death. Vaccines do cause life long disabilities. Vaccines do fail. Vaccination is a risk and I question the agenda of any "healthcare facility" that mandates it's devoted employees to take such a risk against their will.

The influenza vaccine is not 100% efficacious in preventing disease, but it is as close to 100% safe, and much safer than the disease.

Excepted and abridged from Science Based Medicine blog, by Mark Crislip (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/flu-vaccine-efficacy/) "In my mind the true benefit of the influenza vaccines is: decreasing the morbidity and mortality of populations. The benefit for populations is derived through vaccinating individuals. That requires a bit of altruism on the part of those receiving the vaccine, as they may be getting vaccinated more for the benefit of others than for themselves. However, at least in the US, a premium is currently placed on being a self centered narcissist; indirectly helping others, even for MDs and RNs, is apparently not on the to do list. Do flu vaccines work? It depends on what the meaning of is is. If you are simplistic and like binary answers, yes or no, then you can pick yes or pick no, and find studies to support your contention that the vaccine doesn’t work. If you realize that medicine is subtle and nuanced, and often the answers are filled with qualifiers and uncertainty, that the practice of medicine is messy, I think the answer is that the flu vaccine is of benefit. And that the more people who get the vaccine, the greater the benefit for everyone. If one looks objectively at the preponderance of data, with all its flaws, nuance, subtleties and qualifiers, the most reasonable conclusion is that the flu vaccine is of benefit. In so far as the vaccine decreases the probability of morbidity and mortality it is a good thing."

Health care professionals who are not altruistic in pursuit of healthy outcomes for the rest of us? Health care workers who need the persuasion of law to protect patients? Health care employees whose institutions encourage the herd to get these vaccinations, but who make an exception for themselves? Thank you for coming out of the closet on this, and sharing your thinking. I thought y'all were vaccinated.

Every vaccine carries an inherent risk of causing a serious reaction, injury or death. This risk can be greater for some than others. Please take a few moments to investigate the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Billions of dollars have been awarded to those injured by vaccines. Sadly, only one in ten people who apply are awarded. Even sadder, most physicians and lay people do not even know such a reporting system exists. We must educate our families and friends. We need to fight for non-biased studies to be done on vaccines. We must insist on double blind studies by independent researchers...NOT the Pharmaceutical Companies' studies. Thimersol was approved by the FDA in the 1930s. Has it's use ever been revisited? The mercury in Thimersol is a known neurotoxin today, yet it is still present in the Influenza and many other vaccines.

Those of you who are interested in the relationship between unvaccinated health care workers and increased morbidity from flu among patients might do a web search... I found the excess deaths statistics in a nursing magazine. A great many people have been assisted out of a hospital bed and into a coffin.

As a registered nurse we are pretty competent at reading the particular package place for all vaccines. We are also pretty competent at getting at and also understanding research data regarding vaccines and the health problems these are meant to prevent. The fact that vaccines are being produced mandatory has to be dealt with. Why are these mandates being made? Exactly why at this point? Precisely what studies have been done in the past to be able to also bottom these mandates on? Precisely what follow up studies are being done by these amenities that are mandating these vaccines? Precisely what active security is being done to accurately calculate harmful events on all healthcare workers receiving these vaccines? These are just a couple of points I have pondered. But the main point I would like to make with this issue is the fact mandating anyone take a vaccine or another invasive medical procedure is unconstitutional and also begs legitimate actions.