KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Required Flu Vaccines For New York Health Workers Draws Criticism

The New York Civil Liberties Union is criticizing a regulation that requires hundreds of thousands of state health workers to get both seasonal and swine flu vaccinations. Critics say it violates workers' right to decide their own medical treatment. The New York Times reports that Donna Liberman, executive director of the state civil liberties union, who testified before several State Assembly committees, "stopped short of saying that the civil liberties union would sue over the requirement, which was adopted by the state's Health Department as an emergency regulation in August. State health officials said Tuesday that the regulation affected 500,000 health care workers and volunteers statewide."

A state judge is expected to rule shortly on the issue in a lawsuit filed by a nurse in Poughkeepsie, who contends "that the regulation is arbitrary and capricious because no other state is ordering mandatory vaccination despite concern about the H1N1 pandemic." Some legislators have also raised questions about the state regulation (Hartocollis, 10/13).

The Associated Press reports that nearly half of the adults hospitalized for swine flu are otherwise healthy: "Health officials released the surprising results at a news conference on Tuesday, noting that 46 percent of 1,400 hospitalized adults did not have a chronic underlying condition. They have said before that the majority of swine flu patients who develop severe illness have some sort of pre-existing condition, but the new data suggest the majority may be slimmer than was previously thought. A study of 272 hospitalized swine flu patients, released by the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month, concluded that 83 percent of adults and 60 percent of children had underlying conditions. However, health officials cautioned that the new analysis is preliminary and did not count obesity as an underlying condition" (Stobbe, 10/13).

Meanwhile, CNN/Health.com reports that young people are at risk for H1N1 complications while older people could have immunity to the virus. "An analysis of the sickest swine flu patients in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand suggests that relatively healthy adolescents and young adults are among the most likely to get very sick after an H1N1 infection, a pattern similar to that seen in the 1918 influenza pandemic" (Mann, 10/13).

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