Image copyright Reuters Image caption The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to allow officials from the Centers for Disease Control to enter the chamber
The Senate may require all senators to receive mandatory vaccinations to enter the chamber, requiring officials from the Centers for Disease Control to enter for work.
In response to the spreading epidemic of flu that has killed at least 74 people so far this year, the health committee of the Senate voted on Monday to allow officials from the CDC to enter the chamber.
Officials from the CDC would be required to show vaccinations for rabies, foot and mouth disease, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, influenza and influenza hemagglutination autoantibodies — an immune response to the infection — before they are allowed in.
But the resolution doesn’t specify which vaccine would be required. It also noted that a medical professional is not required to require vaccinations for their office.
A vote on the proposal is expected after Senate recess this week, with the CDC-required immunizations of all senators for testing, heath and life expectancy.
Read more: How you can get a flu vaccine
Why need vaccination?
Previously, health workers coming into contact with a person in acute respiratory distress, even if their number is low, were required to be vaccinated.
An emergency committee report in March 2017 found that mandating vaccine for health workers visiting sick people was “cost-effective, morally sound and protects the public and clinicians”.
Senator Lamar Alexander is chief sponsor of the resolution and told reporters that their number one concern at the moment is spreading flu, and therefore new rules are needed.
“You always wonder what’s more important, protecting the people who are at risk, or protecting somebody who says, ‘I don’t want to get a vaccine’ and then becomes sick?” he said.
“Here’s the bad news about flu: we only get a month of it; sometimes more, sometimes less.
“And you know what? You don’t have a month’s supply of medicine in all 50 states. So just about anybody could say they’re not going to get a vaccine and then turn out to be sick – so we don’t really want people who might become sick not getting a vaccine.”
The CDC has said there are major benefits for preventing workplace outbreaks of infectious diseases.
“Vaccines also save lives by protecting a person’s immune system – this prevents illness, reduces the risk of complications, and improves survival,” it said in its 2017 Flu and Healthcare worker protection proposal.
Read more: Now you can vaccinate your dog against the flu
Whether it would prevent any new outbreaks, which are not yet increasing in Europe, is difficult to determine. Experts from the CDC haven’t provided an estimate of how much it would cost to vaccinate all senators, but if they happened to be in the room around a person who was under the weather, it could cost money.
If approved, the requirement will come into effect on Monday, 15 October. Senators will then receive five shots of the Hepatitis B vaccine or the MMR vaccine for measles.
Senator Warner (D-Va.) warned a more drastic measure might be needed after reports of breaches of security measures by members of Congress on their personal time.
“I’m hopeful they can find a balance that’s acceptable to the Senate,” he said.