While many nurses across the nation refuse to take the H1N1 flu vaccine shot, in Merced most nurses are choosing to get the vaccine.
About a third of health care workers in the U.S. are refusing the shot, which is actually more people taking the vaccine than in a normal year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, fewer than half of all health care workers get annual shots. Research has shown that health workers are a key source of the seasonal flu, which causes about 200,000 hospitalizations and at least 36,000 deaths a year.
At Mercy Medical Center Merced, the percentage of nurses choosing not to get the vaccine is hovering right around 20 percent.
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“Some of our staff were worried about the flu mist vaccine,” said April Brewer, regulatory compliance manager for Mercy. “Some of them are now changing their minds about not getting the vaccine.”
What’s changing those minds is that the flu vaccine is now in a shot instead of a mist, Brewer said. Those nurses who choose not to get the vaccine must sign a paper that states the worker didn’t want the shot.
According to Robert McLaughlin, spokesman for Mercy, the hospital received about 1,600 vaccines last week.
“The county had loaned us 500 doses, and we’ve given those vaccines back to the county,” McLaughlin said.
By Friday, most of the staff at the hospital will have been given the shot, or denied it. The hospital has been giving shots for the flu for the past three weeks, McLaughlin said.
“We are now giving the vaccine to our volunteers and to the students who work at the hospital,” McLaughlin said.
Brewer said she believes the hospital will be able to protect patients from getting the H1N1 flu in the hospital.
“I feel that the number of staff who have gotten the shot will help keep patients safe,” she said.
There have been 55 people who were hospitalized for the H1N1 flu, and four people died from the flu in the county through Nov. 7. The first death came in August, and the last one was in October.
The emergency room at Mercy hasn’t seen an increase in the number of people coming in with cold or flu symptoms, Brewer said. The census at the hospital has stayed the same, she added.
“By the end of the week, we will have offered the vaccine to almost everyone who works in the hospital,” Brewer said.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org