(CBS 5) – Thousands of Bay Area health care workers are under orders to get a flu shot vaccination or wear a mask at work this flu season.

The controversial mandate is being applauded by patient advocates who claim this protects the most frail and those most at risk.

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Health care officials in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties have reported the vaccination rates by health care workers is just too low.

But the California Nurses Association said forcing employees to wear a mask for several months during the flu season only stigmatizes workers who have personal reasons for not getting the vaccinations.

>> California Dept. of Public Health – Flu Vaccinations For Health Care Workers (.pdf)

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San Francisco and Sacramento counties already have similar mask mandates to help prevent the spread of flu during the high season.

State vaccination records show that the flu shot rates for Bay Area hospitals vary greatly and can range from 40 percent to a high of 90 percent.

The National Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommends that those 6 months and older get a yearly flu shot. The flu season generally runs from November thought March.

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