RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - HCA Hospitals, which include CJW Medical Center and Henrico Doctor's Hospital, are the only major facilities in our area to make the seasonal shot mandatory so far.
"If you work in a health care environment with patients, then we do require that you get the vaccine or that you take appropriate precautions if you cannot get the vaccine," said Ann Latstetter, HCA Hospitals.
In some parts of the country, the practice of requiring vaccinations has caused widespread tension. But Susan Motley, the head of the Virginia Nurses Association, says that's not the case in Virginia. Her organization, which includes 88,000 registered nurses in the commonwealth, is a strong advocate for health care workers being vaccinated.
"We think that nurses have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves but their families and the patients they care for," said Motley.
Starting this week, local health care facilities will get their hands on the long-awaited swine flu vaccine. HCA, Bon Secours and VCU health systems will all offer the vaccine to employees. In all cases, it will be encouraged but not required.
Health professionals say this year's flu season will be especially challenging because of the combination of swine flu and seasonal flu, and that's why they're taking extra steps to prepare.
"We've always encouraged the vaccine and we've always given it to our health care workers, but this year we've taken a little bit stronger stance," said Ann.
While this first wave of swine flu vaccine is going to health care workers, officials still expect the vaccine to be available to the general public by the middle of this month.