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Nudges or mandates? The ethics of mandatory flu vaccination
- Dubov, Alex, Phung, Connie
- Vaccine 2015 v.33 no.22 pp. 2530-2535
- cognition, ethics, health care workers, health services, hospitals, influenza, issues and policy, public health, vaccination, vaccines, United States
- According to the CDC report for the 2012–2013 influenza season, there was a modest increase in the vaccination coverage rate among healthcare workers from 67% in 2011–2012, to 72% in 2012–2013 to the current 75% coverage. This is still far from reaching the US National Healthy People 2020 goal of 90% hospitals vaccination rates. The reported increase in coverage is attributed to the growing number of healthcare facilities with vaccination requirements with average rates of 96.5%. However, a few other public health interventions stir so much controversy and debate as vaccination mandates. The opposition stems from the belief that a mandatory flu shot policy violates an individual right to refuse unwanted treatment. This article outlines the historic push to achieve higher vaccination rates among healthcare professionals and a number of ethical issues arising from attempts to implement vaccination mandates. It then turns to a review of cognitive biases relevant in the context of decisions about influenza vaccination (omission bias, ambiguity aversion, present bias etc.) The article suggests that a successful strategy for policy-makers and others hoping to increase vaccination rates is to design a “choice architecture” that influences behavior of healthcare professionals without foreclosing other options. Nudges incentivize vaccinations and help better align vaccination intentions with near-term actions.