The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) this week filed a lawsuit challenging a flu vaccine mandate that will soon been implemented at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Boston Globe's Felice Freyer reports.
Why Brigham and Women's introduced a mandate
According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts public health officials have been pushing hospitals to improve their worker vaccination rates. During the last flu season, health worker vaccination rates varied significantly by hospital, ranging from 62% to 99%.
At Brigham and Women's, the employee vaccination rate is about 77%. Hospital spokesperson Erin McDonough says efforts to improve the rate—which have included offering no-cost shots at any time—have done little.
With the mandate, Brigham hopes to bring its vaccination rate on par with that of other teach hospital in the area, which generally vaccinate at least 90% of their workers.
Nurse union: The mandate is illegal
MNA represents 3,200 nurses at Brigham and Women's. In its lawsuit, which was filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the union argues that a mandate would violate a state regulation preventing hospitals from requiring employees to receive the vaccine if they don't wish to for any reason.
Workers resist mandates
An MNA spokesperson argues the union wants to boost vaccination rates, but without "violating the rights of the nurses."
But McDonough said hospital officials "believe that we have interpreted the statute correctly, but will await clarification before implementing a mandatory policy."
Moreover, Lynn Nicholas—president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, which encourages mandate flu vaccination policies—says several Massachusetts facilities have flu vaccine mandates. She accuses the union of "putting a pet peeve of theirs above the safety and well-being of the patients they serve, their families, visitors to the hospital, and their colleagues."
MNA also represents nurses at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which has a vaccination policy that exempts MNA-represented nurses. "However, our nursing staff supports the flu vaccine program and understands its importance in protecting our patient population," says spokesperson Ellen Berlin. The hospital has a 99% worker vaccination rate (Freyer, Boston Globe, 9/25).