Flu-fighting debate: Should you be required to get a flu shot?

AKRON, Ohio -- Across Ohio, many health care providers and hospitals require employees to get flu shots.

Proponents of the shots, including Summit County Health Department director, Dr, Marguerite Erme, believe it is a good policy.

"I think health care workers have to look at it from two perspectives: One is they are around sick people who may have influenza that can transmit it to them, the health care worker, who could possibly take it home and infect people in their family. And on the other hand, they are also around very susceptible people who may not be able to fight off influenza as well," said Erme.

But State Representative Christina Hagan of Alliance believes employees of any company should not fear termination or action of any kind against them if they refuse a flu shot.

"There are obviously concerns within the medical industry, you know, that I think are respectable and understandable. The question becomes why should an employee lose their patient rights as a medical professional to have uniformed consent to take something intravenously that could and does have the potential for adverse impact, injury or death?" Hagan told Fox 8 News on Wednesday.

House Bill 193, introduced by Hagan, would make it illegal for any employer to take action against an employee for refusing the flu vaccine.

Hagan believes the flu shot requirement is the result of urging by the Centers for Disease Control and there are other ways health care providers can prevent the spread of flu.

"I completely understand the anxiety wrapped around this, but there really is no true data that suggests that a vaccinated versus non-vaccinated person, for the purpose specifically of flu vaccine, is more likely to transmit the virus. In fact, most people rely on hand-washing, mask-wearing procedures and the simple policy is that any person with the flu should not be at work," said Hagan.

The bill, which passed in a house committee on Tuesday, faces opposition from hospitals and the associations that represent them around the state of Ohio.

But Hagan believes their rights are outweighed by the individual rights of their employees when it comes to personal decisions regarding their own health care.

"I had to make a decision based on what our nation was founded upon and that is civil liberties and personal freedoms and so I had to side with the individual on this case," explained Hagan.

"I do understand that employers feel this is an infringement on their right; however, when it becomes an invasive medical procedure I think we are talking about a very different thing. In allowing employers to have rights I don't ever think the employers' rights should trump the personal freedoms of an individual as it applies to their medical situation," she added.

Dr. Erme says she has not yet seen the bill so she cannot comment on it.

But for her, the flu remains a very serious matter and she encourages everyone, regardless of where they work, to consider getting the vaccine.

"There are arguments on both sides, but I think if people look at what, in health care, what their role is to take care of people who depend on them and also to protect themselves from people who are sick, I think it's something people should consider if they are not going to do it on their own," said Erme.

The bill still has to be considered in the full House and has a long path to take through the legislature before it becomes law.

More stories on the flu shot.