First Do No Harm: Protecting Patients Through Immunizing Health Care Workers

40 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2015 Last revised: 28 May 2016

See all articles by Rene Najera

Rene Najera

Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: February 8, 2015

Abstract

To protect vulnerable patients, hospitals increasingly adopt policies requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against influenza. More than twenty states have also enacted statutes or regulations on the topic. A small minority of health care workers oppose the requirement, and several have appealed to our courts of justice.

This article examines the legal issues surrounding influenza mandates for health care workers, including the constitutional framework, federal employment discrimination statutes, and the effect of collective bargaining. It argues that requiring vaccination for health care workers is both ethical and appropriate. While better done via state statute, hospitals have the authority to require vaccination from their workers -- and are not, arguably, required to exempt any workers that do not have medical barriers to vaccination.

Keywords: vaccines, religious exemptions, health, labor law, influenza

JEL Classification: I10, I18, J28, K32

Suggested Citation

Najera, Rene and Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, First Do No Harm: Protecting Patients Through Immunizing Health Care Workers (February 8, 2015). Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine, Vol. 26, 2015; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 136. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2562091 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2562091

Rene Najera

Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health ( email )

615 North Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205
United States

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-5654844 (Phone)
415-5654865 (Fax)

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