DENVER (CBS4)– Hospital employees across Colorado are being threatened with their jobs if they don’t get the flu shot by the end of the year.
This requirement is being implemented now even though the State of Colorado only requires more than half of all employees to receive the vaccination. The mandate for all employees doesn’t take effect for several years.
These health care workers feel they are being given a choice: get a flu shot or lose your job.
“I don’t want to get the flu shot and to me it seems I’m getting forced to put a virus into my body that I object to,” said one hospital employee who didn’t want to be identified.
The new state health regulations require flu shots for health care workers to be phased in over the next several years. Right now 60 percent are required.
Almost all hospitals in Colorado, including Exempla Lutheran, have made the vaccinations mandatory.
When asked what happens when employees tell their supervisors they aren’t going to get the flu shot, Exempla Lutheran nurse Renie Lindgren said, “Everyone seems to be compliant.”
At Exempla Lutheran those employees who refuse can be suspended. At Denver Health Medical Center, Centura Health and Banner Health, employees who don’t get a flu shot by the end of the year will be suspended and then fired.
When asked if it is fair to threaten employees with the loss of their jobs, Colorado Hospital Association President and CEO Steven Summer said, “We need to have a workforce available when the public needs it if they are sick. I think people choose to work in a hospital.”
The only way to avoid a flu shot requirement is for medical reasons. In those cases, health care workers are required to wear masks.
“For people already being hit with the ultimatum of it is the shot or your job, I would ask where are they at with the percentages,” said National Vaccination Information Center spokeswoman Theresa Wrangham.
Hospitals said it’s not a matter of just meeting the 60 percent compliance requirement, employees must follow their policies.
“To me it’s against your civil rights. I can see you are trying to protect patients and all of that and I get that but I feel I should have the choice to take a shot or wear a mask,” said the unidentified hospital worker.
The Colorado Department of Public Health said if hospitals want to go beyond the current flu shot requirements that is up to them. The hospitals maintain their policies are for the protection of their employees, patients and the public.