North Carolina’s largest hospital system has fired 175 employees for not getting vaccinated against a virus that has spread across the nation.
Hospitals in North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey have fired employees who did not get a legal exemption to the state’s flu shot requirement.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that the flu shot is available year-round. Before last year, only people with a medical requirement, such as diabetes or cancer, could get a legal exemption.
The department encourages people, especially the elderly, to get the vaccine, a spokesperson said.
“The flu shot provides protection against two strains of the flu virus: the influenza A (H3N2) virus and the influenza B virus,” the spokesperson told Fox News. “Influenza viruses are constantly changing and it is difficult to predict which strains will be circulating during the next flu season. The flu vaccine has been proven to be very effective at protecting people from getting the flu. The flu vaccine offers another effective way to prevent the flu.”
The H3N2 virus, primarily found in birds, is the virus at the root of the current pandemic, and some experts say a lack of a year-round flu shot has helped spread the virus to other countries and the U.S.
In October of 2017, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services announced that they would require all state workers to be vaccinated against the flu. The mandate went into effect in January 2018, and also required all employees to fill out a medical exemption form before starting to work.
A 2015 poll conducted by National Public Radio found that 76 percent of North Carolina adults supported the mandatory flu vaccine.
A large public health event in Atlanta on Sept. 5 is slated to be one of the largest mass vaccine preparations in the country.
“We have always believed in vaccines and we are incredibly pleased that the governor and the North Carolina legislature had the wisdom to realize that the flu is a very serious virus, particularly in older people,” Karen Ruby, a nurse at the Mayo Clinic, told NPR.
Ruby said anyone who feels uncomfortable about the mandatory vaccination or the need for a medical exemption can get a copy of the exemption form from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.