The state board of health approved a mandate for flu shots for many health care workers, agreeing that protecting patients overrides objections about freedom of choice in vaccines.
The board voted 7 to 1 to approve rules requiring hospitals, nursing homes and some other health facilities to prove at least 90 percent of their employees get the flu vaccine in 2014-15. The required percentage steps up from 60 percent in 2012-13.
Only medical reasons are allowed as employee exemptions, and those not receiving the vaccine must wear masks during patient contact. Volunteers are not part of the mandate.
The new rules have the support of the Colorado Hospital Association and many other public health groups. The board vote came after a public hearing and comment period fairly evenly split between supporters and opponents.
Vaccine opposition includes libertarian positions on personal choice, and health objections from some who say the effectiveness and safety of many vaccines is not a given fact.
Lower risk health areas, such as home health work or assisted living, are given more exemptions from the rules for personal objections. Colorado does not have statistics on how many health workers get the flu vaccine, but national studies show the rate at about 64 percent.
Flu sends about 3,300 Coloradans to the hospital each year. Public health officials say medical settings are crucial because many patients come in with compromised immunity and have close contact with employees.
Michael Booth: 303-954-1686 or firstname.lastname@example.org;' Twitter: @MboothDP