At least one employee was fired for violating Mercy's policy requiring flu vaccination, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The nurse received a religious exemption from the annual flu vaccine while working at St. Anthony's Medical Center before it was acquired by Mercy this year, according to a protest organizer outside Mercy South on Tuesday.
"That is the problem here, they rejected the religious exemption," said Nelia Aubuchon, who would only say that she is close to the nurse who was fired.
Mercy implemented its flu vaccination policy in 2016. This year, the company received 170 applications for medical or religious exemptions to the flu vaccine among its 44,000 employees in four states. Although most of the applications were granted, employees whose exemptions were rejected were notified this week, according to a statement.
"The point of our flu vaccination policy is simple: protection against the flu virus saves lives, especially those of our most vulnerable patients," the statement says.
The flu season 2017-2018 was the most serious in decades, with an estimated 79,000 deaths and 960,000 hospitalizations attributed to the virus. Vaccination rates below the average (37 percent of adults) contributed to the wave of diseases, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends that all health workers be vaccinated against the flu. and says in a position statement that mandatory vaccine policies "can improve patient safety."
While the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective in preventing it, it can still reduce the severity of the symptoms and reduce the spread of the infection to others. According to doctors, the hospital environment is particularly vulnerable to an outbreak due to high-risk patients, including pregnant women, newborns and people with chronic medical conditions, and suppressed immune systems.
More than two-thirds of hospitals in the United States require their employees to get vaccinated against the flu. According to a survey conducted in 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, vaccination rates in hospitals with a mandate for vaccination against influenza reach 97 percent, compared to 79 percent of workers in hospitals without rule.
In addition to Mercy, the local hospital systems BJC HealthCare and SSM Health have flu vaccination requirements for employees that include exemptions for medical or religious reasons.BJC implemented the flu vaccination policy in 2008 for all employees. More than 98 percent of the 26,000 BJC employees received the vaccine that year, and most others received exemptions. According to an internal report, eight employees were dismissed that year for not complying with the policy. The updated figures were not available on Tuesday.
Last year, Essentia Health in Minnesota fired about 50 employees who refused to receive flu shots after a union representing some workers failed to obtain a court order to stop the terminations, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
However, the US Department of Justice UU She has voiced her recent opposition to immunization mandates through a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a Wisconsin county that fired an assistant in a public asylum after she refused to get vaccinated against the flu for religious reasons.