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Some Central Ohio Nurses Question Taking Swine Flu Vaccine

Health care workers in the U-S will be the first to receive the swine flu vaccine. In New York, some have protested that state's new regulation that requires anyone who has contact with patients to take the swine flu vaccine. Ohio has no similar regulation, but employers have the authority to make H1N1 vaccine mandatory. And, with the first shipment of swine flu vaccine arriving this week, some hospital employees still don't know if they are required to take the vaccine or if they are willing to take it.

Hospital officials in central Ohio strongly recommend that employees get both seasonal and swine flu shots, but only one says failure to get the vaccine will have dollars and cents consequences. At Children's Hospital doctors, nurses and other patient care workers who refuse the H1N1 vaccine will not be eligible for bonuses, raises or cost of living increases. Director for Epidemiology Dr. Dennis Cunningham says their policy is based on concern for their young patients.

"We don't want to spread it to our patients. We have some very vulnerable children here. Children who have been immunocompromised either because of medications or who were born with an immune problem."

Cunningham says he also wants to make sure Children's can maintain safe staffing levels.

Gingy Harshey-Meade is CEO of the 8600 member Ohio Nurses Association.

"We support everyone getting a flu vaccine. We do not support everyone being mandated for a flu vaccine. In this country, everyone should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do."

While the Mt. Carmel hospitals are still working on an H1N1 policy for employees, the Ohio State Medical Center and Ohio Health say employees who decline the H1N1 vaccine will be asked to explain why. They will receive additional education about swine flu, and they are required to wear a mask in clinical settings where they come in contact with patients.

Susan Bunevich is a breast health specialist at Grant Medical Center. Even though she doesn't like shots, Bunevich took the seasonal flu vaccine, and she will also take the swine flu vaccine.

"It's not really that I'm thinking about me, I'm thinking about patient contact. My patients have cancer. Their immune system is low. I have an obligation to them."

Ohio State Medical Center operating room nurse Amanda Miller thinks concern over swine flu is blown out of proportion. She says seasonal flu kills people also. She will not take either flu shot.