How Can An Employee Obtain A Mandatory Flu Vaccine Exemption
Medical and religious exemptions exist and are allowed in New York specifically to protect employees from participating in practices that would be harmful to them in some fashion. However, documentation to support your exemption is required.
Having Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an auto-immune disease, is one example of a health diagnosis that can be used as an exemption for an employee to avoid getting the flu vaccine. It is not recommended that those with the syndrome get the vaccine. Thus, if an employee has a health condition that prevents them from getting the flu vaccine then they may present a letter to their employer from their doctor outlining the pertinent information.
Nothing Beats Vaccine Advocates Argue
Public health advocates argue that vaccines are one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of disease, protecting the individual, their family and their friends and colleagues. When caring for sick patients is part of their work, it is even more important, experts note. Health care workers are at risk of exposure to a range of diseases and can also be the source of infection to others, as they were in the early COVID-19 outbreak at nursing homes in Washington state.
According to the New Jersey Immunization Network, vaccination among health care personnel can decrease patient mortality by 40% to 50% and reduce employee absences by 20% to 30%. State and hospital officials remain concerned about potential staffing shortages, should coronavirus hospitalizations rise again in the months to come.
We were at a critical shortage of hospital employees on any given day during the COVID peak in April, said Sandy Cayo, a nurse and vice president at the New Jersey Hospital Association, which has posted resources about the new flu vaccine law on its website. That can be a concern if were getting down in the numbers and we see the peaks we did this spring.
Preventing The Flu: Get A Flu Vaccine
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each fall.
There are two types of vaccines:
- The “flu shot” — an inactivated vaccine that is given with a needle. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu . LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body.
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Where Is Vaccination Or Testing Required By The State Of New Jersey For Workers In New Jersey
Covered workers in health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings are currently required to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, including the first booster dose for which they are eligible.
State requirements do not impact an employer’s ability to impose more stringent vaccination or testing requirements on workers, including, for example, requiring all CDC-recommended booster doses, any requirement for more frequent testing, for testing of both vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, and for mandatory vaccinations without a testing alternative. Federal and local requirements may also apply based on the worker’s setting.
As of August 15th, 2022, the State is no longer requiring that unvaccinated workers in school districts and child care settings undergo routine COVID-19 testing requirements.
As of September 1st, 2022, unvaccinated state employees and state contractors will no longer be required to undergo routine COVID-19 testing.
Health Care Facilities and High-Risk Congregate Settings
All workers in health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings are required to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, including having received the first booster dose for which they are eligible.
Settings can impose more stringent vaccination or testing requirements on workers, including any requirement for more frequent testing.
Schools and Child Care Settings
State and Federal Government
Get An Annual Flu Shot
Getting an annual flu shot is the most effective way to prevent the flu. Getting vaccinated is especially important for people who are at high risk of infection, such as students , healthcare workers, those who smoke, those over 50, children under 2 years of age, and those with weakened immune systems . The CDC currently recommends flu vaccination for everyone.
Since the strain of the flu virus changes every year, annual vaccines are needed. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in your body that protect you against the flu, so make plans to get vaccinated early in the fall, before flu season begins.
View the CDCs flu fact sheet and Vaccine Information Statement here.
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Religion Should Not Guide Choices
The fact that no religious exemption was included in the final draft of the legislation, That was not an oversight, Conaway said. Religious beliefs should have nothing to do with decisions about vaccines, he said.
Those seeking an exception feel otherwise, of course. Villalonga one of five workers to contact NJ Spotlight News directly, some asking to remain anonymous said she believes that God made her immune system strong enough to fight off common germs and protect her over time. Villalonga also called for aggressive hand washing, cleaning and mask wearing things that are already being done to protect against COVID-19.
How can I be forced to choose between keeping my job or violating my religious beliefs? Villalonga wrote. My religion gives me the spiritual foundation and virtues that make me the caring and loving nurse I am and the exceptional dedicated employee.
While hesitant to speak publicly about their concerns or identify their employers, some of the hospital workers concerned about the flu vaccine mandate said there were dozens, if not more than 100 others, in their situation.
I know there are a lot of employees in the health care system that feel the same, but they are afraid to speak up because this is how they survive and feed their families, Perry said. I know because I am one of them, but I chose to speak out for the ones that dont have a voice.
Which Vaccines Are Required Under State Law For Children To Enter/attend/transfer Into A Licensed Child Care/preschool Or School
Under Immunization of Pupils in School regulations, the minimum required number of vaccine doses for children in New Jersey are as follows:
Haemophilus influenzae type b Child Care/Preschool: Children 2-11 months old are required to receive a minimum of two age-appropriate doses of aseparate or a combination Hib conjugate vaccine, or fewer as appropriate for the childs age.Children 12-59 months old are required to receive at least one dose of a separate or combination Hib conjugate vaccine, on or after the first birthday.Not required for kindergarten.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Child Care/Preschool: Children 2-11 months old are required to receive a minimum of two age-appropriate doses of PCV, or fewer as appropriate for the childs age.Children 12-59 months old are required to receive at least one dose of PCV, on or after the first birthday.Not required for kindergarten.
DTaP Child Care/Preschool: receive a minimum of four doses of a DTaP-containing vaccine, or fewer as appropriate for childs age per ACIP Recommended Schedule.Kindergarten/First Grade: Students need four to five doses of a DTaP-containing vaccine depending on age of school entry. Children 7 and older who have not completed the primary DTaP series or have not received any DTaP-containing vaccines, should receive three or fewer doses of tetanus diphtheria vaccine.
Tdap Children a least 11 years and older are required to receive a one-time dose vaccine at the 6th grade level or higher
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New Jersey Expands Vaccination Requirements For Healthcare Workers And High
On January 19, 2022, Governor Philip D. Murphy signed Executive Order 283, which requires that healthcare workers and those at high-risk congregate settings be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including receipt of a booster shot, or have their employment terminated. Currently, New Jersey allows unvaccinated healthcare workers to bypass receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and, instead, undergo weekly testing. With this new EO, the state is tightening its position and dropping the weekly testing option for unvaccinated healthcare workers.
By way of background, on August 6, 2021, Governor Murphy signed EO 252, which required all workers in certain state and private healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 7, 2021 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at minimum one to two times per week.
The reasoning for the governors announcement, which will surely place more pressure on employees to receive the vaccine, is directly related to the omicron variant. The omicron tsunami has washed across our state, said Governor Murphy in a public address on January 19.
Importantly, EO 283 provides that accommodations must be provided to employees who request and receive an exemption because of a disability, medical condition, or sincerely held religious belief. If an employee does receive such exemption, they must submit to weekly or twice weekly testing in accordance with EO 252, which was signed by Governor Murphy last year.
New Jersey Statutes 18a: 62
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For All County Flu Clinics
Mandatory Flu Shots: Why One Nj Hospital Had 4400 Employees Vaccinated
Education was key to putting a mandatory flu vaccine policy in place at Kennedy Health‘s three hospitals. Looking at different flu shot policies across the state, the team at Kennedy knew it was time to establish a mandatory policy there.
The hospital did have a flu shot policy, but it wasn’t mandatory. In 2011, Kennedy had about 54 percent of its staff vaccinated, said Cheryl Rosselli, corporate director of employee health and wellness at Kennedy. They set a goal to get that number up to 90 percent by 2020, she said.
“So we ramped up our efforts and made our policy mandatory. Our leadership really pushed forward,” said Rosselli. “And did a lot of research into it.”
Adopting this mandatory policy meant that about 4,400 Kennedy employees had to be vaccinated.
First, they looked into medical and religious exemptions. And then the human resources department was set with the task to either approve or deny those reasons.
Today, that research has paid off. As of Dec. 15, the hospital reached 99.7 percent compliance, Rosselli said, quite an achievement the first time out of the gate.
An important decision
Making it a mandatory policy has its advantages, said Dr. David Condoluci, chief of quality and safety at the hospital.
Unfortunately, Condoluci pointed out, this year’s flu season has been a challenge.
But that doesn’t mean not getting vaccinated is the way to go, either, said Sheri Timpanelli, employee health nurse practitioner.
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What Osha Says About Employer Vaccination Policies
According to OSHA, an employer may require you to obtain a flu vaccine. While often promoted as simply being for the health and safety of employees flu vaccination can also impact an employers bottom line. Employers argue that mandatory flu vaccination of all employees reduces the number of sick days taken and prevents groups of employees from falling ill at the same time. As this has a direct impact on how a business operates, many employers require vaccination, especially in fields where face-to-face human contact is high.
Those who take care of the elderly or other high-risk patient categories are often required to be vaccinated to reduce the chances of transmission. With the Covid-19 pandemic, many are looking to current flu vaccination policies to see what may lie ahead for mandatory covid vaccination.
OSHA does not mandate vaccinations but it does state that employers can mandate flu vaccinations as part of their job requirements. For general guidance, the CDC recommends that everyone aged six and over, obtain a flu vaccine, every flu season. In fact, the later in the year you obtain your vaccine, the better. Some studies show that obtaining the vaccine too early, can actually cause it to be at its weakest during the height of flu season.
County Health Departments Coordinate Local Flu Clinics
Many county health departments have coordinated the administration of flu shots for county residents. Some, though not all, offer this vaccine for free. Find out what is available in your area by going to the link provided below for your county. If we could not find a listing of clinics in your area, we have provided the link to your county health department. You may call the department directly to determine resources available in your county. Some county sites will link you to municipalities in that county for information. Alternatively, check with your local health department. Atlantic Health Systems has also compiled a comprehensive listing for the counties of Essex , Morris, Passaic, Somerset , Sussex, Union and Warren.
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How Do Medical Exemptions For School Attendance Factor In
“A written statement shall be submitted to the school, preschool, or child care center from a physician licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy or an advanced practice nurse indicating that an immunization is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time, and the reason for the medical contraindication, based upon valid medical reasons as enumerated by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.”
For a look at CDC guidelines of conditions under which vaccines should not be administered,
Best Practices For Employers Considering Mandatory Flu Vaccination
For employers deciding whether or not to mandate a flu vaccine, remaining informed on state and religious requirements can be key. Making certain that everyone involved in the hiring process understands and knows what to do if reasonable accommodations are requested is very important.
There is an interactive process for determining valid exemptions submitted by employees. It is not up to the supervisor or manager to determine the validity of the claim, which is why documentation can be requested as mentioned earlier. Further, an employer should ask themselves:
If an employee presents a valid exemption to a flu vaccine, the employer can consider a few things:
- Does this employee work with others?
- Can this employee wear a mask to reduce any potential transmission to others?
- Can this worker perform their job from home?
- Are there any collective bargaining agreements in place that affect this decision?
When and if reasonable accommodations can be made, employers may allow unvaccinated employees to remain employed. In this case, the flu vaccine for the employee would not be mandatory.
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New Jersey Statutes 2: 1a
Provisions in the State Sanitary Code in implementation of this act shall provide for exemption for pupils from mandatory immunization if the parent or guardian of the pupil objects thereto in a written statement signed by the parent or guardian upon the ground that the proposed immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupilâs religious rights. This exemption may be suspended by the State Commissioner of Health during the existence of an emergency as determined by the State Commissioner of Health.
Know The Signs And Symptoms
Its easy to mistake a cold for the flu. Both can cause a sore throat, coughing, and congestion. The common cold can make you feel run down, but the flu can make it difficult for you to even get out of bed. Another big difference is that colds have a gradual onset of symptoms, while the flu shows a sudden onset of symptoms.
The flu can also bring:
- High-grade fever
- Body aches
- Possible vomiting and/or diarrhea
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Amid Existing Religious Exemptions Are There Religions With A Current Stance Against Vaccines
The major world religions support vaccination of children.
Under current law, religious exemption from mandatory immunization is granted if the parent or guardian of the pupil objects thereto in a written statement signed by the parent or guardian upon the grounds that the proposed immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupils religious rights.
As outlined in a May 2017 memo from the Department of Health, the written request does not need to identify membership in a recognized church or religious denomination, or describe how the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with the students religious beliefs in order for the request to be granted.
Some people who practice Catholicism point to the use of cell lines original taken from two voluntary aborted fetuses in the 1960s to develop certain vaccines as the means for religious objection.
As clarified by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the vaccines do not contain parts of fetuses” or fetal cells, but viruses are grown within the cells before being removed and further developed.
The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America strongly urge all parents to vaccinate their healthy children on the timetable recommended by their pediatrician, in a November 2018 statement amid a CDC monitored measles outbreak.