LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- It’s not mandatory, only recommended, that healthcare workers get a flu shot.
Nevada ranks last in the country when it comes to how many healthcare workers get the vaccine. In Nevada, an estimated one-third of healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and other caretakers, do not get the shot.
The director of nursing at BrightStar Care West Central Las Vegas said it all comes down to personal choice. But for her, getting the shot is less about her own health and more about protecting the patients she cares for.
“A tiger bit me around the neck,” Charles Flannery said. Flannery worked at the Stardust hotel as a stagehand in 1985. He was 50 at the time. The tiger was part of Siegfried and Roy’s act, and the attack left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
“They fix me something to eat, they wash my clothes,” Flannery said about his caretakers. He relies on people like Lorrie to help him do daily tasks.
“We are dressing them, showering with them, cooking with them... You can't get any closer,” BrightStar Care director of nursing Darcy Tumminello said.
The first time Lorrie got a flu shot was in the 1990s.
“I thought it was the flu shot that made me sick,” she said. “So I refused to get the flu shot after that.”
Tumminello said that’s a myth. Instead, Lorrie had to wear the mask every single year.
Until this year, her co-worker Tumminello convinced her to get the shot.
“I was afraid of getting sick but she talked to me and talked to me and finally I was like you know this is my job,” Lorrie said. ”I would feel horrible if I caused an elderly client to get sick.”
Tumminello estimated 15 percent of her coworkers do not get the vaccine. It’s not mandatory. But if they don’t get the vaccine, they need to wear a mask through the entire flu season, which ends in April.
”If they are caught or spotted not wearing that mask, it is an automatic write up,” Tumminello said. ”Then if they are spotted again not wearing that mask, for a second time, it is automatic termination.”
Tumminello said a seemingly healthy caretaker could be the carrier who brings the flu into their home.
“You may just think I have a sniffle, and you have the flu,” she said. “And therefore you're infecting someone and not even knowing it.”
Tumminello understands some people are allergic to the vaccine. But she wants others in her field to think about the patients first.
Charles Flannery survived a tiger bite. He doesn’t want the flu to be the thing that takes him down.
Thirty-seven flu-related hospitalizations have been reported in Clark County so far this flu season.