Hospital Vaccination Bill Goes to Gov. Heineman for Approval


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that would require many health care clinics to offer tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria vaccinations to patients before they're discharged.

Patients wouldn't have to accept the vaccinations, and many hospitals already offer them. But Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said he introduced the legislation to minimize future outbreaks.

Whooping cough resurfaced last year in force in Nebraska, along with the rest of the nation. Douglas County, which encompasses Omaha, experienced its largest outbreak since the 1930s.

"Whooping cough, we thought we had under control for years," Krist said. "We're finding out now that isn't the case. There are a lot of adults out there who will cough it away, and not pay attention until it really manifests itself."

The vaccines could be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, private payers or insurance.

Whooping cough generally starts as a mild cough that grows more violent after a few weeks. In some cases, the coughing fits are powerful enough to induce gagging or vomiting.

Another bill would that won final approval would require hospitals to offer vaccinations to employees who have not previously received one. The bill would not require employees to accept one, but Krist said many medical clinics already require vaccinations as a condition of employment.

Hospitals would also have to keep track of which workers have accepted and declined a vaccination.

Lawmakers gave final approval to both bills, 44-0. Both measures were supported by the Nebraska Hospital Association and Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi S.A.

The measures now head to Gov. Dave Heineman.