Many parents in Broward County spent the weekend deciding whether to sign the papers to allow our kids to receive the swine flu shots in school. Conflicted, I spoke to many parents about it. Most, like me, are unsure what to do. It seems most parents are going with their gut instinct rather than basing their decision on any conclusive research.
But isn't that what we typically do as parents?
Even though outbreaks appear to be more common in schools than workplaces, the same debate over whether to get the vaccine applies to adults. The number of swine flu cases in adults is rising and deliveries of the vaccine are slower than officials hoped. Given the opportunity, should I get the vaccine? And, should my employer make me get it? After all, if I bring swine flu into the workplace, I'm putting everyone there at risk.
Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on how companies are preparing for possible swine flu outbreak: Worried they could face throngs of ill and absent employees, companies are devising plans to keep their offices and factories running. They also hope to prevent or limit the spread of infection in the workplace by installing hand-sanitizer dispensers and thermal scanners, ordering workers to wipe down their desks and phones, and asking employees who don't feel well to stay home. To pre-empt high absenteeism, many companies are trying to get workers vaccinated, particularly those who travel internationally, Some companies are stocking antiviral drugs to treat flu-ridden employees.
How would I react if I was required by my employer to get it? I might be resentful. I most likely will get the vaccine, but I want it to be my choice. One of the best articles I've read on the pros and cons of the swine flu vaccines appeared in The Orlando Sentinel.
The National Law Journal reports that employment lawyers are hearing from businesses worried about a potential swine flu pandemic affecting their work force. Apparently, some employers are not only thinking about mandating the vaccine but they are even asking whether they can take employees' temperatures at work -- a concept lawyers highly advise against, noting it's illegal to give employees a medical test at work.
Most employment lawyers don't advise mandating the vaccine but they do recommend employers offer incentives, such as a paid day off or a free lunch for those who get the shot.
I think we're going to see some workplaces policies tested in the next few months. In some cases, it might be in employees favor. We may see more offer paid sick days.
If you are a parent, your risk is higher. Do you think you have any responsibility to co-workers get the vaccine? Do you think an employer who doesn't offer paid sick leave has any responsibility to make the vaccine available to workers?