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Judge dismisses nurses’ suit challenging Brigham and Women’s vaccination policy

Globe file photo/Jonathan Wiggs
Brigham and Women's Hospital said it implemented the vaccination policy to protect patients, visitors, and staff.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the Massachusetts Nurses Association that challenged the flu vaccination policy for employees at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Judge Anthony M. Campo said the nurses association did not have the standing to bring the suit, which questioned the legality of the hospital’s policy.

Brigham officials said last fall that employees must be vaccinated against the flu, unless they are granted exceptions for medical or religious reasons. Hospital workers who do not get the vaccine must wear face masks when they’re around patients.


In November, the court denied the union’s request for an injunction to immediately stop the policy from going into effect.

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The nurses union represents about 3,400 nurses at the Brigham, one of the state’s largest hospitals.

Union leaders have argued that the mandatory vaccination policy goes too far. “To take away someone’s livelihood for a vaccine that [is not very] effective is an overreach,” spokesman David Schildmeier said.

He said the union is disappointed in the judge’s ruling and is considering whether to appeal.

Brigham officials said they implemented the vaccination policy to create the safest possible environment for patients, visitors, and staff.


This flu season, 98 percent of all Brigham employees — including 98 percent of nurses — were vaccinated. The remainder were exempt for religious or medical reasons and have had to wear masks in patient rooms, clinical areas, and patient waiting areas.

“We are gratified that the court has affirmed our right to implement this policy,” Brigham spokeswoman Erin McDonough said.

The flu vaccine has been a point of contention between the union and the hospital for years. The union filed a suit in 2014, which ultimately went nowhere because the hospital never enforced the vaccination policy that year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that almost everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine annually.

Flu activity has been particularly high this season, and the vaccine has been about 36 percent effective, according to the CDC.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.