TEL AVIV – Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Israeli doctors are not required to be vaccinated against influenza and in cases where they do receive the flu shot, are forbidden from displaying a pin advertising that fact to patients, the Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
While in the U.S. most hospitals demand that all personnel who come in direct contact with patients receive the vaccination before the flu season begins, the Israel Medical Association only recommends the measure to its 25,000 members, the report said. It added that any outward indication – such as a pin or tag – that doctors were voluntarily vaccinated was not allowed.
IMA chairman Prof. Leonid Eidelman, who is chief of anesthesiology at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, explained the reasons behind the policy, saying that if medical practitioners “voluntarily wear a pin showing they were vaccinated, it doesn’t give a good impression about those who don’t.”
“There is a slippery slope; doctors could be forced to wear pins saying they have HIV or hepatitis C. It would never end,” he told the Post.
“It’s a personal decision for everyone, and doctors should not be dictated to,” he added. Eidelman further declined to answer whether he himself had been vaccinated because “this is a political question.”
Meanwhile, in Manhattan’s NYU Langone Medical Center, all employees – not just doctors and nurses – must get the flu shot. “We are given a sticker to wear on our ID tag. Theoretically, if for some reason you don’t get the shot, you need to wear a protective surgical mask through the entire flu season,” a senior doctor told the Post.
Only 19% of Israel’s population has been vaccinated against influenza, despite the shot being free.
According to the Ministry of Health’s epidemiology department, 27 people of all ages died of complications resulting from the flu in the last few months – double that of last year, the report said.
However, according to Eidelman, there are “no studies showing that patients are infected with the flu by their doctors” or the reverse.