Shooting the Moon: Should states require the H1N1 vaccine for healthcare workers?

On June 11, 2009, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the phase of alert in the Global Influenza Plan from level five to level six. The cause for this was the H1N1 virus which had already affected several countries. A level five alert is declared when more than one country in a single WHO geographic region is affected by the same virus. A level six declaration means that the community outbreaks are occurring in at least two WHO geographic regions. Once such a declaration is made, little time remains before mitigation efforts must be planned and communicated to the public. In the wake of the WHO declaration, policy makers are clamoring for adequate disease mitigation strategies. Some health departments intend to require employees to wear personal protective equipment while on the job. Other state health departments are encouraging employees to stay home sick if they think they might have the flu. The New York State Health Department has issued an order requiring all healthcare workers to be vaccinated for H1N1 or risk being terminated. This article will explore the New York State policy and make recommendations to policy makers about how to prevent the spread of H1N1.

This article was published in the November/December 2009 issue of the Journal of Emergency Management.

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