The countdown is on for Sanford Health employees to get their flu shots. Connie Schmidt, the Director of Child's Voice, already got her shot, but she admits she was a little hesitant.
"Last year I had what we believe was a slight reaction, so right after I was vaccinated last year I contacted employee health. They said remind us next year," Schmidt said.
Schmidt realizes reactions are rare, and this year she got the egg-free vaccine.
"There have been children who have died of influenza," Schmidt said. "I wanted to do my part to prevent that."
Schmidt is part of the 94 percent of Sanford Health employees who have received flu shots. All employees are required to get immunized before February 1st or have a medical or religious exemption.
"That's being a good ethical healthcare provider--making sure that we're protecting our patients," Sanford Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Heinemann said.
If employees have an exemption and don't get vaccinated, they'll be required to wear masks while working with patients.
"We're not going to have mask police out looking for everybody, but we'll be watching to make sure those individuals live up to the policy they said they would follow," Heinemann said.
If an employee doesn't have an exemption and didn't get a shot, Heinemann says he or she will be furloughed throughout the flu season. While that might seem strict, Heinemann says Sanford is in the business of protecting patients.
"Their immune systems are being challenged by whatever brings them into the hospital. They don't need to have a secondary issue, like the flu," Heinemann said.
Which is why Schmidt says in the end, getting a flu shot was a no-brainer.
"I could also be an asymptomatic carrier and infect patients I was working with, co-workers, my family members and people in general and not even realize it," Schmidt said.