TRENTON – Hospital workers will have flu vaccines provided to them if A3920 passes; hospitals will foot the bill. Today, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee gave its approval, 10-0, and added amendments.
The bill, sponsored by Chairman Herb Conaway, (D-7), of Delanco, requires health care facilities to provide and offer influenza vaccination to their workers annually.
Conaway said it would “increase the safety in our hospitals,” but responding to some outcry, noted that the vaccinations are only provided, not mandated by the hospitals.
“Commencing with the 2011-2012 influenza season,” the bill states, “each health care facility is to establish and implement an annual influenza vaccination program in accordance with the current recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and any rules and regulations adopted by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services pursuant to the bill.”
Many hospitals already provide the vaccinations, he said, but now the state will require the provisions. The bill would also require signed statements from workers declining the vaccines, or proof that the worker was immunized elsewhere.
Amendments added today would strip personal employee information from state tracking records. “We’re trying to save lives here,” Conaway said, but no one is required to accept the vaccination.
Dr. Drew Harris, chairman of the N.J. Public Health Institute, supported the measure.
“Flu is truly a serious disease,” he said, yet studies show only a 50 percent vaccine compliance rate for hospital workers, still better than the general public’s compliance.
“This is not a mandate,” he said. “This is an opportunity for people to do what’s right for their patients.”
Speaking in opposition to the bill, Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk, (R-39), of Westwood, said, “I know this bill is well intentioned, but I have some grave concerns.”
“We have no guarantees that the influenza vaccine is going to work,” she said. In years where vaccine strains did not work, “the patterns of death and infection did not change.”
“My real concern beyond that,” Vandervalk said, is “the influenza vaccine still contains mercury. That is very dangerous.”
She said employees shouldn’t feel like their jobs are in jeopardy if they turn down the vaccination, either for concerns over mercury or otherwise.