Clinic Operator Forcing Flu Shots

Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 07:28 AM

Essentia Health, which has 11 clinics in Minnesota including one in International Falls, is requiring its employees, vendors and volunteers to get flu shots or lose their jobs.

The United Steel Workers union represents 2,000 of those workers, and says the policy would be a violation of their contract and its members' civil rights and has taken the matter to court.

The union's lawyer, Justin Cummins, said Essentia hasn't been willing to bargain or compromise.

"There are employees who are being forced to submit to the vaccination who have no patient contact whatsoever because, for example, they work from home or they otherwise work remotely," says Cummins.

Essentia defends the move, saying it's to protect patients.

Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, an infectious disease specialist at Essentia, says Minnesota health care workers get vaccinated at a lower rate than health care workers in other states, and that's why Essentia decided a mandate was necessary.

"Unfortunately, Minnesota ranks 44th out of 50 states in influenza vaccine among health care personnel," says Prabhu. "The average influenza vaccination rate is only 81.4 percent."

Prabhu says where flu shots are mandatory, the vaccination rate tops 90 percent.

The company has until Wednesday to file its response to the lawsuit.

If there is no agreement before November 7, a federal judge will decide whether to stop the company from implementing the policy.