A recent survey of Hong Kong healthcare workers found 52% will refuse a vaccination for swine flu because they fear side effects and don't think the vaccine would be very effective.
Evidently, U.S. healthcare workers share the same doubts. Some states and hospitals require flu shots as a condition of employment, but many do not.
Personally, I can't imagine working in a health care setting without being vaccinated for the flu and other potential illnesses. Working among the sick without being vaccinated would be like playing Russian roulette with my health every day.
The risk of swine flu also creates workplace and patient safety issues. What if otherwise healthy patients --- those who have a doctor's appointment for an annual physical or prescription renewal, for example --- catch the flu from the nurse who took their blood pressure? If there's a huge swine flu outbreak, health care providers could open themselves up to new liabilities.
The element of this whole story that intrigues me the most, however, is how human beings aren't very good at weighing risk. In fact, we're pretty bad at it. It's well known, for example, that we're more likely to be killed in car accidents than airplane crashes, but we worry far more about the risks of flying. Likewise, most people wouldn't pick malaria as the most prevalent disease on the planet.
We're not very good at weighing the risks and rewards of vaccination, either.
The CDC recommends that everyone get the swine flu shot this fall. Will you?