Flu vaccine rule thrown out, company says

A federal judge struck down the federal mandate requiring health care workers to become vaccinated against the flu or face financial penalties.

A company called Tierney Laboratories, which had offered hepatitis vaccines to health care workers nationwide, sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that the new rule violated its First Amendment rights, especially since it imposed a “burdensome” licensing requirement.

After the latest flu vaccination season is over, nurses, doctors and other health care workers will be required to complete a two-hour certification course on influenza to keep their licenses.

“Today’s decision underscores the absurdity of this law,” said Randall Wilhite, Tierney’s lawyer. “The government can’t be in the business of licensing what the public has a right to acquire, namely drugs and vaccines.”

“Tierney’s license was very extensive, very well-regarded and no other company offered the same product,” he said. “Now the government comes along and says you may not make that product because you don’t agree with the government’s policy. In this case, a vast majority of the vote went against the policy.”

HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley called the decision “disappointing.”

“All this does is deprive thousands of health care workers and their families, who would have benefited from protected immunity, of the benefit of prior flu vaccination,” she said.

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