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Healthcare workers: voluntary or mandatory vaccination?

Healthcare workers: voluntary or mandatory vaccination?

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Healthcare workers are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases at work and further transmitting them to colleagues, patients and even their families. Healthcare workers who are vaccinated and fully immunized would protect themselves and act as a barrier against the spread of infectious diseases and maintain healthcare delivery during outbreaks.

It must be noted that vaccine uptake rates among healthcare workers have often been low. To achieve adequate immunisation rates among Healthcare workers, mandatory vaccination policies are occasionally implemented by authorities. For example, some institutions mandate that workers must be vaccinated against Hepatitis, Influenza, and Tetanus. However, such policies have raised considerable controversy over the past years.

It is morally justified and correct to encourage and promote vaccination among Healthcare workers to protect themselves and the patients that they care for. The best approach is to encourage voluntary vaccination along with adherence to all other preventive measures for disease control, that should be the standard operating procedures in healthcare facilities.

If voluntary vaccine uptake fails to achieve the desired rates, mandatory policies may be considered, provided that the benefits outweigh harm, patients’ welfare is enhanced, and fair rules and exemptions are defined. The decision should be balanced, taking into consideration differences in diseases -that is, it should not be for all diseases, but those that are considered to spread easily, fatal and are difficult to control. The type of health care setting should be considered. For example, working in the ICU, emergency setting or on the Infectious disease ward, compared to being in an administrative office. Healthcare worker groups at high risk, as well as special conditions such as epidemics are critical considerations.

Healthcare institutions have a duty to protect patients and to prevent the spread of diseases in the institution especially from providers to patients. Healthcare providers are expected to keep working efficiently during outbreaks of communicable diseases as essential workers to bring the outbreak under control.

The higher the immunization rates among healthcare workers, the better it is for themselves, their patients, and the public. Hence there is a moral imperative for healthcare authorities to secure vaccination rates among workers that are as high as possible, by adopting optimal policies.

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