A while ago, we discussed how anti-vaccination idiocy by hospital staff enabled the spread of influenza to critically ill patients. So we read with dismay the following from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (God Bless It!; boldface mine):
Roughly 81 percent of employees at the state’s acute care hospitals received flu vaccinations during the most recent season, according to a report released Wednesday by Massachusetts public health regulators.
The percentages increased from a statewide average of about 71 percent during the previous season, but is still not close to the minimum level of 90 percent regulators had hoped for, spurring renewed debate about mandating vaccines for hospital workers at a meeting of the Public Health Council, an appointed panel of doctors, consumer advocates, and professors…
The latest numbers show that about 18 percent of workers in acute care hospitals rejected a vaccination, down just two percent from the previous seasons’ 20 percent.
Current state rules require hospital workers to be vaccinated or sign a form declining the shot. The rules allow for medical and religious exemptions.
The council last fall decided not to make vaccination mandatory at acute care hospitals, and instead approved a resolution that supports hospitals that are on their own requiring the immunizations “as a condition of employment.’’
Council members said at that time that higher vaccination rates are needed to keep hospital employees from spreading the flu to patients and to ensure a large number of caregivers don’t fall ill amid a flu outbreak…
“We are sending a rather stern communication making it clear that the department does not feel [these low levels] are acceptable,” Romm said.
He said the department also plans to encourage better performance by publicizing the names of hospitals that boost their vaccination rates as well as those who are doing a poor job.
Council members agreed to again hold off on mandating flu shots for hospital workers, but agreed to boost the minimum benchmark vaccination rate each hospital should achieve to 83 percent, which is two percentage points higher than the current statewide mean rate.
Is a “stern communication” like a sternly worded letter? Shaming isn’t going to work. Those who are refusing to get vaccinated are doing so out of fear and ignorance–and they’re not going to change their minds until after they kill someone. Maybe. Hospitals won’t do anything until they are hit with fines and other sanctions for failing to comply. And some of the most vulnerable patients–those coming into the emergency room–won’t have the ability to choose, so publicizing rates won’t help. You wind up where the ambulance takes you; there is no option of choice.
For those who thinks it’s unfair to medical workers, well, not getting vaccinated is the medical equivalent of drilling holes in people’s heads to let the spirits out. It’s not medicine.
Just mandate ninety percent already.