The New York State Health Department is now requiring mandatory seasonal and swine flu vaccinations for all hospital, home health and hospice workers. No other state or city agency in America has such a requirement, and a coalition of local health care workers unions are considering filing a lawsuit to block it. Less than half of all health care workers across America get an annual flu shot, and Dr. Julie Gerberding, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thinks the New York requirement is "a big deal." She tells the Times it's time for "a more aggressive approach," not just for the protection of workers, but also for patients with weak immune systems.
Interestingly, Gerberding's CDC successor, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former NYC Health Commissioner, thinks the timing's all wrong for mandatory vaccinations: "This is just not the right flu season to take this on." That's because the CDC is already scrambling to get both seasonal and swine flu vaccinations to workers, and the swine flu vaccination is still being tested.
Another way hospitals have expanded vaccinations is with incentives like raffles for Caribbean vacations. But Jana Newton, a housekeeper at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, would still rather suit up with a mask, gloves, gown and hairnet, telling the Times, "Some people’s immune system is good, like me. I’ve been here five years and never been sick. Why mess with something that’s not broken?"