Saturday 18 November 2017

Row after minister calls for flu jab to be compulsory for health staff

Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Photo: Arthur Carron
Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ian Begley and Niall O'Connor

Health Minister Simon Harris's proposals to introduce mandatory flu vaccines for healthcare workers have already met with opposition.

Mr Harris yesterday sparked another row in the health service by suggesting that all practitioners and hospital staff should be obliged to get the flu jab.

The Fine Gael politician said there had been a "disappointing" uptake of the jab this winter and a mandatory system was now under consideration.

"There is an onus on all of us in the health service to get it," Mr Harris told 'Newstalk Breakfast'.

The Wicklow/East Carlow TD added that some vaccines were already mandatory for health workers.

"If the uptake is so low for the flu vaccine, then something will have to be looked at in the future," he said.

However, Mr Harris's proposals received a mixed reception last night from groups representing doctors and nurses.

Both the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) expressed deep reservations about the prospect of a mandatory flu jab for their members.

"The IMO fully supports the flu vaccine programme. However, we would have serious reservations if healthcare staff were effectively forced to take the vaccine, thus removing the healthcare choice from individuals," an IMO spokesperson said.

"The IMO would strongly support efforts made to increase the uptake on a voluntary basis."

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said making jabs compulsory would be met with a lot of opposition.

"The INMO would encourage people to get the vaccine, but it's very much a personal choice and I think the idea of making it compulsory will result in severe opposition from healthcare workers who may see it as a measure they are not willing to accept," he said.

But consultant in emergency medicine Dr Fergal Hickey said healthcare workers should definitely get vaccinated.

"It is the norm for people working in hospitals in the US to be made get vaccinated as they could be a threat to their patients," he said.

"At-risk groups would be crazy not to get it - it would be like playing Russian roulette."

Irish Independent

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