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FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, a nurse administers a flu vaccine shot in Washington. On March 9, 2017, one of the greatest runs for the stock market in history is marking its eighth anniversary. Health insurance premiums have spiked well over 40 percent since 2008. Soaring drug and technology costs and the lack of a true market in which patients can hunt for the best deal all combine to push health care costs higher than inflation annually. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

A company fired 50 employees for refusing to get flu shots



A company in Duluth, Minnesota, has fired about 50 employees who refused to get flu shots, according to KBJR 6.

KBJR 6 on Tuesday reported that Essentia Health had set a Monday deadline for staff to get the injections.

Essentia told employees, students, vendors and volunteers in September that they had three options in relation to the vaccinations.

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The health care provider said that the individuals affected could get the shot, secure an approved medical or religious exemption, or leave the company.

Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, who is Essentia’s chief of patient quality and safety, on Tuesday said that the organization’s mandate had two goals.

Prabhu noted that Essentia wanted to improve patient safety, adding that the company also realized that its 82 percent flu vaccination rate from last year would not rise voluntarily.

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“Purely voluntary or more education doesn’t get you those high levels of immunization compliance and as you know other states, other health care organizations have done the same thing we have,” he said.

“People may debate on how effective that is but based on what the level of evidence is and what our peers are doing, we thought this was the best way to protect our patients,” Prabhu added of the shots.

Prabhu noted that as of Tuesday, 99.5 percent of Essentia employees had chosen to either receive the shots or try gaining an approved waiver.

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The doctor added that besides the 50 people whose roles had been terminated, more individuals were waiting for confirmation of their exemptions.

KBJR 6 reported that Essentia’s policy has faced criticism from several unions, with a few vowing to fight any terminations their members face.

The unions acknowledged, however, that it may be months before a judge decides if any of the impacted individuals can get their jobs back.

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