Human Exceptionalism

Is New York Right to Order Mandatory Flu Shots for Health Care Workers?

I am still mulling whether to get an H1N1 shot, which is solely in my discretion as it should be.

Not so New York State health care workers.  They have been ordered to get the inoculation or lose their jobs–and it is causing a revolt.  From the story:

New York is the first state in the country to mandate flu vaccinations for its health care workers. The first doses of swine flu vaccine will be available beginning next week. Much of it is reserved for state health care workers, but there is growing opposition to required innoculations.

Health care workers in Hauppauge screamed “No forced shots!” as they rallied Tuesday against the state regulation requiring them to roll up their sleeves. [Me: Actually allow a swab up their noses.] “I don’t even tend to the sick. I am in the nutrition field. They are telling me I must get the shot because I work in a health clinic setting,” said Paula Small, a Women, Infants and Children health care worker. Small said she will refuse, worried the vaccine is untested and unproven, leaving her vulnerable. In 1976, there were some deaths associated with a swine flu vaccination.

This part of the story seems key to me in judging this issue:

The state said change was needed this year to save lives, typically only about 45 percent of health care workers take advantage of voluntary flu vaccines.

So far, swine flu has not been a particularly deadly disease, although it is dangerous.  So, what is it about this flu that requires inoculation, when the regular flu–which kills tens of thousands each year in the USA–is not mandatory. I suspect it is the hysteria surrounding this story–the crucial driver of too much of our public policy these days.

It seems to me that requiring one to be medicated, from which there could be side effects, violates personal autonomy and is only justified by the most serious of health emergencies.  I do think that health care workers should have a lower threshold, but in this situation, my sympathies are with the workers.

On a larger note, this story illustrates the power of “health” to become the justification for increased government control.