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Our Opinion: A matter of choice

One of the more profound, if not subtly confounding, freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the freedom of choice.

What we get to choose, when it comes to our personal lives, is almost unlimited—what we wear, what we eat, where to worship, who to associate with, which ideologies to follow and which to ignore. Still, choices come with consequences—sometimes good, sometimes benign and sometimes bad. But for the most part we make choices understanding consequences come with our decisions.

It's when the consequence of a choice blindsides us that we tend to take offense. In many cases the outrage is not justified.

Take, for example, Essentia Health's announcement this past September requiring all employees get a flu shot, or have a legitimate reason for not getting one. The vaccination is one of many required of Essentia's 13,900 employees across the country, including hundreds here in the Brainerd lakes area.

About 99.5 percent of employees complied, but not all agreed with the mandate. Some argued the effectiveness of the vaccine, some argued it wasn't negotiated through their union and some objected on the grounds it violated personal freedom.

Some objected but took the vaccination anyway. A few others, about 50, lost their jobs because they declined to be vaccinated. Either way and by all parties involved, a choice was made and that choice came with a consequence.

Accepting a job often comes with rules and requirements. Some can be as minor as a dress code or as major as needing auto insurance or a valid driver's license. The common thread is it is a requirement. If you choose to be employed in any business you take on an obligation to abide by that business's rules, provided those rules are not unconstitutional.

The key argument is not whether one thinks flu vaccines work. Essentia Health does and is requiring employees to receive them, specifically to protect patients at a high risk to any number of viruses or bacteria.

We are free to leave a job any time we disagree with a company mandate or philosophy. In that same vein, companies are free to dismiss employees for not abiding by its rules. Those are the choices afforded to us.

If anything could have been done differently, perhaps it would have been better communication at an earlier time in the process. Essentia should have sat down with employees and union representatives earlier in the process to explain the decision.

While not every hospital in the state requires flu vaccinations, we believe Essentia was acting in the best interests of its patients. Minnesota is not among the 18 states that require health care workers to get the shots. Perhaps it's time it should.