Wearing a surgical mask is very common when people are sick and want to avoid spreading their germs to others. They are also commonly worn when people are healthy and are just afraid of getting sick.
Why Do Some Folks Wear a Mask During Flu Season?
Is that why you see some folks wearing masks during flu season?
Maybe, but some folks actually have to wear a mask during flu season.
Well, they have to because they decide they don’t want to get a flu vaccine, but still want to keep their job that could put others at risk if they got sick with the flu. So basically, it is unvaccinated health care personal and others who work around sick and vulnerable people who might have to wear a mask when they are at work.
Why don’t they just get vaccinated and protected against the flu?
That’s a good question…
Some other questions to consider as you think about flu vaccine mandates include:
- Do unvaccinated health care workers pose a risk to others in the course of their jobs? Of course they do. Health care personal are at high risk to get the flu, since they are often around people who are sick with the flu, and are at higher risk to get the flu if they are unvaccinated.
- Does wearing a mask protect anyone? – Yes, they actually do and recent studies have concluded that “surgical face masks worn by infected persons are potentially an effective means of limiting the spread of influenza.”
- Does getting a flu shot prevent you from catching the flu? – Flu shots aren’t the most effective vaccine we have, but they are the best way to avoid catching the flu, being 10 to 60% effective since 2004.
- Does getting a flu shot prevent you from spreading the flu to others? Yes, and several studies have shown lower rates of nosocomial cases among hospitalized patients as more health care personal get vaccinated!
- Does getting a flu shot just cause you to have milder symptoms? The flu vaccine does has many benefits besides preventing the flu, but it is certainly not limited to just causing milder symptoms.
- Does wearing a mask violate your HIPAA rights? No. Unless you announce it, no one knows why you are wearing a face mask. Maybe you have herpes or a cold or are just afraid of getting sick. And the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act only protects patients, not employees.
So why don’t all health care personal get a flu vaccine each year?
And while some people seem to be against the idea of mandates for health care workers getting flu shots, most think it is a great idea.
“I support this requirement. I think it is a good idea. Ethically, it makes total sense. First, every doctor, nurse, and HCW knows that they are supposed to put patient interests ahead of their own interests. Whatever you think about flu shots, it is good for patients that their healthcare providers are vaccinated against the flu, particularly among patients who cannot themselves be vaccinated, such as some of the elderly, babies, people with immune diseases, and people who just received transplants or are getting cancer treatment. Vaccination does not help them. They are all immunosuppressed.”
Art Caplan on The Law: Get a Flu Shot or Wear a Mask, Healthcare Workers!
In fact, most think that there is both an ethical and a legal rationale for flu vaccine mandates for health care workers.
“Doctors and other healthcare providers have an ethical obligation to make decisions and take actions that protect patients from preventable harm. 5 Many patients are highly vulnerable to flu, so choosing not to be vaccinated is choosing to do harm—a choice that has no place in healthcare.”
Doctors choosing not to be vaccinated is choosing to do harm
It is hard to imagine that some doctors and nurses not only skip getting vaccinated, putting others at risk, but then don’t even want to wear a mask.
More on Wearing Masks During Flu Season
- Requiring influenza vaccination for health care workers: seven truths we must accept
- Ask the expert: Mandatory flu shots, mask-wearing policies, and HIPAA
- Employers & Health Information in the Workplace
- Legal Protections for Children with Viral Hepatitis
- Laws Protect People Living with HIV and AIDS
- The Ethics of Influenza Vaccination Mandates for Healthcare Personnel
- Influenza vaccination of health-care personnel: recommendations of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
- CDC – Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings
- CDC – Influenza Vaccination Information for Health Care Workers
- CDC – Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission
- CDC – Guidance for the Prevention and Control of Influenza in the Peri- and Postpartum Settings
- CDC – Interim Guidance for Influenza Outbreak Management in Long-Term Care Facilities
- CDC – Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness, 2004-2018
- The Law: Get a Flu Shot or Wear a Mask, Healthcare Workers!
- Vaccinating Health Care Workers Against Influenza: The Ethical and Legal Rationale for a Mandate
- Morality of influenza Vaccine Mandates
- Mandating influenza vaccination for health care workers: Putting patients and professional ethics over personal preference
- Guidance for Developing a Mandatory Influenza Vaccination Program
- Doctors choosing not to be vaccinated is choosing to do harm
- Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Workers: A Patient Safety Imperative
- Employer Guidance Reducing Healthcare Workers’ Exposures to Seasonal Flu Virus
- Face masks recommended to help prevent flu transmission
- Study – Development and Performance Evaluation of an Exhaled-Breath Bioaerosol Collector for Influenza Virus
- Study – Influenza Virus Aerosols in Human Exhaled Breath: Particle Size, Culturability, and Effect of Surgical Masks
- Study – Influenza vaccination of health care workers in long-term-care hospitals reduces the mortality of elderly patients.
- FDA – Masks and N95 Respirators
- Influenza Vaccination Mandates
- Healthcare Worker Influenza Immunization: Mandates, Benefits, Consequences