There has been some controversy surrounding vaccines over the years, and the issue really came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever the reason, some nurses don’t feel comfortable getting certain vaccines.
But do travel nurses have to be vaccinated?
In many cases, they do. But not always!
Find out more information about the CDC-recommended vaccines for healthcare workers, if vaccine exemptions are available for travel nurses, and whether you can find a travel nursing job with no vaccines required.
Table of Contents
- Do Travel Nurses Have To Be Vaccinated?
- 7 Vaccine Requirements and Recommendations for Travel Nurses
- Reasons Why Some Nurses May Be Hesitant To Get Vaccines
- Are Vaccine Exemptions Available for Travel Nurses?
- Are There Jobs in Travel Nursing With No Vaccines Required?
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping You Find the Right Travel Nursing Assignment for Your Needs
Do Travel Nurses Have To Be Vaccinated?
The American Nurses Association recommends that all nurses — including travel nurses — should be immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases, including:
- Mumps; and
But some travel nurses feel that choosing to get vaccinated is a personal decision. Others are fine with childhood vaccine requirements but eschew yearly inoculations like the flu shot or newer solutions such as the COVID-19 vaccine.
Just as different nurses may have a wide range of opinions on the topic, vaccine requirements often vary from facility to facility. Even within the same hospital, nurses in a specific specialty or location may not have the same vaccine requirements as someone in another department.
It’s usually the case that contract workers, such as travel nurses, are under the same requirements as full-time employees in any given healthcare facility. If vaccine requirements are a gating item for you in your travel nurse job search, it’s important that you ask about this information upfront.
7 Vaccine Requirements and Recommendations for Travel Nurses
The CDC has specific recommended vaccinations for healthcare workers. They say:
“Healthcare workers are at risk for exposure to serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases. If you work directly with patients or handle material that could spread infection, you should get appropriate vaccines to reduce the chance that you will get or spread vaccine-preventable diseases.”
These include vaccinations for:
- Seasonal flu
- Td or Tdap
- Hepatitis B
- MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella)
- Varicella (chickenpox); and
- Meningococcal diseases
In addition, the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule for adults has a variety of requirements depending on your age. Let’s break it down by the most common types of vaccinations.
The influenza, or seasonal flu, vaccine is recommended annually for anyone over the age of 6 months. It is one of the recommended vaccines for healthcare workers, especially since hospitalizations for the flu reached nearly 300,000 this season.
The influenza vaccine may not be recommended if the person has ever:
- Had an allergic reaction to the influenza vaccine
- Had severe, life-threatening allergies; or
- Had Guillain-Barré syndrome
It is important to discuss these conditions with your vaccination provider ahead of time.
It’s fine to give the flu vaccine during pregnancy or minor illnesses, but those with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they’re better to get vaccinated.
#2: Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis)
The Tdap vaccination inoculates against:
- Tetanus – This is an infection caused by bacteria that lead the neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to swallow and open the mouth (also known as lockjaw).
- Diphtheria – This is an infection affecting the respiratory tract (killing healthy tissues) and skin (causing open sores and ulcers).
- Pertussis – Also known as whooping cough, this infection can cause serious illness in all ages but is particularly dangerous for babies.
For those who haven’t previously received the vaccine at around age 11, it is recommended that one Tdap shot be given, then another Tdap or Td (without the pertussis element) booster be given every 10 years. This is an especially important vaccine for healthcare professionals.
#3: Hepatitis B (HepB)
The hepatitis B vaccine protects against a serious disease affecting the liver. Since this is a highly infectious disease, the hepB vaccine is also recommended for healthcare workers.
In general, a 2-dose or 3-dose vaccine series is recommended for those who have never had the hepB vaccine before or who can’t show through a blood test that they are immune to the condition.
Those who have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any other severe, life-threatening allergies may not want to take the vaccine.
Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a minor illness can take the vaccine. Others who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they are well to get it.
#4: Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)
Most people get the MMR vaccine in childhood. If you haven’t had it and were born after 1957, it’s recommended that you get two doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart.
The MMR vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers because measles, mumps, and rubella are highly contagious. Once nearly eradicated, measles cases have been on the rise due to interruptions in vaccine schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing number of parents who are concerned about vaccine administration.
Be sure to let your MMR vaccine provider know if you have any of the following conditions, as they may cause concern:
- An allergic reaction after the first dose of the MMR vaccine
- Severe, life-threatening allergies
- Weakened immune system
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Recent blood transfusion
- Other vaccines within the last 4 weeks
- Immediate family members with a history of hereditary or congenital immune system problems
#5: Varicella (Chickenpox)
Once a common childhood illness that everyone was forced to endure and obtain natural immunity from, the varicella vaccine has virtually eradicated chickenpox. These days, the vaccine is generally given as a first dose around the age of one year and again between the ages of 4-6.
If the vaccine was not received in childhood, it’s recommended that anyone born after 1980, especially healthcare professionals, get the varicella series as an adult.
Let your vaccine provider know if you:
- Have had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of the varicella vaccine
- Have had severe, life-threatening allergies
- Are currently pregnant or think you may be pregnant
- Are taking salicylates
- Have had a recent blood transfusion
- Have tuberculosis
- Have received other vaccines in the past month
- Immediate family members with a history of hereditary or congenital immune system problems
This vaccine prevents meningococcal diseases, which can be deadly and include infections of the:
- Lining of the brain
- Spinal cord (meningitis); and
Since these diseases are both highly infectious and so serious, it’s strongly recommended that healthcare professionals get the meningococcal vaccine.
The past two years have brought an outbreak of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in Florida, so travel nurses taking jobs in that area should be especially cautious.
The vaccine should be given in 1 or 2 doses. Let your vaccine provider know if you have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose or have had any life-threatening allergies.
This vaccine was recently developed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which caused a worldwide pandemic. Depending on the type of vaccine you receive, you may receive 1-2 doses and the option of subsequent booster shots.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get the vaccine. While they don’t have this on their list of recommended vaccinations for healthcare workers, many hospitals and other facilities require it to work there.
How Have COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Affected Travel Nurses?
Although most groups representing nurses were in favor of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, other individual healthcare professionals were not. In many cases, this caused nurses to lose their jobs, creating a nationwide healthcare shortage.
One advantage of this situation for fully vaccinated travel nurses is that it opened up more job opportunities for them. But travel nurses who didn’t want the COVID-19 vaccine may have found themselves with more limited opportunities.
Reasons Why Some Nurses May Be Hesitant To Get Vaccines
There are many reasons nurses may be hesitant to get vaccines. They include:
- Concern over vaccine safety and efficacy (especially for newer vaccines like COVID-19 or those like the flu vaccine where scientists have to make educated guesses about which strains to innoculate against each year)
- Lack of trust in experts or science
- Occupation type (for instance, nurses who don’t work in environments where infection is a high risk may not feel the need to be vaccinated)
- Religious reasons
- Medical sensitivities (such as life-threatening allergies or previous reactions to vaccines)
Are Vaccine Exemptions Available for Travel Nurses?
Medical and religious exemptions may be allowable at some healthcare facilities, provided the nurse supplies documentation from an appropriate authority supporting the request per the ANA.
Nurses receiving an exemption may be required to practice other measures (such as masking) to help reduce disease transmission to patients and others.
Each healthcare facility may have its own procedures to grant vaccine exemptions, but they are generally given in accordance with federal and local law.
Nurses may request a religious exemption for vaccine requirements by completing an exemption request form and submitting the required information. In some cases, they may need a written statement from the religious leader of their choice, or they may be required to write a personal statement about their beliefs in the matter.
Medical exemption for vaccines usually involves the submission of a written statement from a personal physician documenting the presence of a medical condition recognized by the CDC as a contraindication of the vaccine’s administration.
Are There Jobs in Travel Nursing With No Vaccines Required?
Nursing jobs for the unvaccinated are available if you know where to look. If you’re a travel nurse who would like a job with no vaccine requirements, your recruiter can point you in the right direction.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters are always ready to help with whatever you need. Read some of our testimonials to see why Trusted Nurse Staffing is the agency travel nurses want to work with again and again.
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping You Find the Right Travel Nursing Assignment for Your Needs
Whether you’re looking for assignments without vaccine requirements, around certain areas of the country, or within a specific specialty, Trusted Nurse Staffing has your back.
If you haven’t already checked out the Pronto app, go there now and set your requirements so we can start helping you find your dream job. Let Trusted Nurse Staffing lead you on the road to a rewarding career in travel nursing.