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Calif. healthcare workers required to get flu shot or wear mask

Union: Forcing employees to wear mask for 5 months each year is ineffective and would stigmatize them

By Sandy Kleffman
Bay Area News Group

CONTRA COSTA, Calif. — A controversial new mandate will force thousands of health care workers in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties to get flu shots this fall — or wear a mask at work the entire influenza season.

San Francisco and Sacramento counties already have similar mask mandates aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly disease and convincing health care workers to practice what they preach. Alameda County is considering a similar rule.

Full story: Calif. healthcare workers required to get flu shot or wear mask

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Catie Holstein Catie Holstein Friday, September 21, 2012 6:44:37 AM My understanding behind the rule is that CMS is working to decrease payment for secondary medical issues such as decubitus ulcers and influenza that patients contract while in the care of the aforementioned healthcare workers. If CMS does not reimburse for the care required to treat people with these conditions, the cost is passed on to the facilities and patients. It is a reasonable expectation for patients to expect to enter into the healthcare system without suffering secondary illness due to poor practices of healthcare workers. Employees can sign a declination form for the flu shot and change their mind at anytime to receive the flu shot, similar to the HBV vaccination rule that's been in place for years. I don't know if I agree about the masks on all providers. In my personal opinion, I think I'm more likely to pick up an influenza virus from touching surfaces and then my face, verses respiratory exposure. I think given the choice of a free influenza shot or having to sign a declination form is a good first step. Masks perhaps when dealing with immunocompromised high risk patients....
Chanda Gravitt Chanda Gravitt Sunday, September 30, 2012 2:26:38 AM Taking a flu vaccine in no way absolutely prevents one from contracting influenza. Directly from the CDC website: "vaccine effectiveness will always vary from season to season, based upon the degree of similarity between the viruses in the vaccine and those in circulation, as well as other factors. In years when the vaccine strains are not well-matched to circulating strains, vaccine effectiveness is generally lower." It's essentially the CDC's best guess as to what strain will be circulating each year.That being said, I take the vaccine offered by my hospital every year as it's at least one less chance of bringing that particular strain home to my family. I strongly disagree with forcing health care workers to don a mask if they choose not to take part in the innoculation process. They are hot, uncomfortable and raise concerns in patients who, logically, wonder if there's a problem circulating in the hospital when they see numerous workers masked on a daily basis.

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