I Say "No" to Mandatory Flu Vaccines for Health Care Workers
By Catherine Morgan on September 30, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
Google the word "flu," and you will be bombarded with scare tactics (and guilt tactics) to influence you to get a flu shot. In addition, there are many pieces of writing out there right now trying to influence public opinion about making flu shots mandatory for all health care workers. The idea of making the flu shot mandatory for anyone is disturbing to me. And if you think you don't have to worry because you're not a health care worker, think again. It's a very slippery slope.
I'm not here to tell you that you shouldn't get a flu shot; but I am here to tell you that flu shots should NOT be mandatory for health care workers or anyone else. Let's start with an analogy (because I love analogies, and I don't get to mention them half as much as I would like to).
The flu is like an impending hurricane or snow-storm (depending on what part of the country you are from).
You see, the media loves a good impending hurricane or snowstorm. They can be tracked for days (even weeks) before they ever actually hit, causing everyone to panic and purchase all the necessities for the "just in case" scenario. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't be prepared for these possible storms, but fear and over-preparation are rarely helpful. And although much of the time they get it wrong, the media still loves a good weather threat.
Let's just say the media was reporting a 10-20 percent chance the storm was going to hit your neighborhood. What would be your level of concern? Personally, I live in Florida, and if there was a 10-20 percent chance of a hurricane hitting, I'm not even worried enough to get bottled water at that point.
So, how does the flu come into this analogy? Well, I'm trying to find out at what point you become concerned about your chances of catching the flu this winter? How high would your chances of getting the flu have to be before you got a flu vaccine? Do you even know how high your chances are of getting the flu in any given year? With all the hype about getting a flu vaccine, it must be pretty high, right? Well, I guess that depends on what you consider high. Is a 50 percent chance of getting the flu high enough? What about 40 percent?
Now, what if your chances of getting the flu (without taking a vaccine) was between 5 to 20 percent? And yes, that is the actual percentage (from the CDC) of people who develop the flu in a given year. Would you get the vaccine then?
Like I said, I'm not telling anyone not to get the flu vaccine, just that it should be a decision each person makes for themselves and their family (based on the facts).
And for the number crunchers among us ...
We all know the flu vaccine is not 100% effective at protecting anyone from the flu. But did you know this?
In any given year an estimated 10 to 20 percent of vaccinated people will still get the flu. So, even if every person in the country was vaccinated, each year between 10 and 20 percent of people would still get the flu. That's not much different than 5 to 20 percent of non-vaccinated people. It seems to me that statistically speaking, the fear quotient is a lot higher than it should be based on the actual numbers. What do you think?
Even if you believe the risk of catching the flu to be low, it's still YOUR choice to decide whether or not to get vaccinated. And I believe that this choice should NOT be taken away from you or health care workers.
From the AP -- Group backs mandatory flu shots for health care workers.
In a new policy statement released Wednesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics says voluntary vaccination programs just haven't worked. Too many health workers still shun annual flu vaccinations. And evidence shows some have passed flu along to patients. The academy says it should be up to hospitals to devise mandatory programs and enforce them.
"Employees of health care institutions have both ethical and professional obligations to act in the best interests of the health of their patients," and that includes annual flu vaccinations, the new policy says.
As a nurse, I find the health care profession and the people who make up this profession to be a noble one. So to imply that health care workers are intentionally putting their patients at risk by not getting a yearly flu shot, is nothing short of absurd.
Yes, I agree that hospitalized patients are more likely to contract the flu during flu season, but not necessarily from the health care staff. It's more likely that the flu is passed on by another ill patient or visitor than from anyone on the hospital staff. This is why ...
The hospital staff is trained to wash their hands before and after contact with a patient. Hospital staff is also more likely to be taking the additional precaution of using gowns, masks, and gloves. As per universal precautions, health care staff is already doing all of this and more. Quite frankly, there are much more scary (and deadly) things going around in a hospital than the flu, they are commonly referred to as hospital-acquired infections.
Basically, the precautions a health care worker is taking to prevent other hospital-born illnesses are the same precautions that help prevent the spread of colds, viruses, and the flu.
All human flu strains are spread when infected droplets (from the cough or sneeze of someone with the flu) come into contact with a mucous membrane (lining of nose, mouth or eyes) of someone without the flu. Infection also may be spread by contact with hands, tissues and other articles soiled by infected nose and throat discharges.
Keep in mind that making the flu shot mandatory for health care workers is a slippery slope. How long do you think it would be before recommendations to make the flu shot mandatory for everyone would come into play?
There is no reason why our freedom to choose should be taken away in an effort to prevent an illness that our body is perfectly capable of fighting off on its own.
The flu isn't anywhere near to being in the same league as measles, mumps, tuberculosis, or small pox. So why do we treat it like it is? It could have something to do with the misleading propaganda surrounding the number of deaths associated with the flu each year.
You see, the whole "about 36,000 people die from the flu or its complications" is a lie, even worse, it's a lie being perpetuated as a scare tactic by otherwise reputable sources. This lie is repeated over and over and over again to reinforce fear and motivate people to get vaccinated.
But let's take a look at this lie in a "real world" situation. Do you know anyone at all who has died from breast cancer? Sadly, I do. Now think about whether or not you know anyone who has died from the flu. If the statistics on the flu are true, then you would know just about as many people who have died from the flu as you know women who have died from breast cancer. Think about it this way -- if you could choose, would you rather be diagnosed with the flu or breast cancer? I'm willing to bet that most (if not all) breast cancer patients would rather take their chances with the flu than cancer.
My point is ... The flu isn't nearly as scary as some would like you to believe.
For more insight on these numbers, here is a very interesting article about flu vaccines and pharma fraud. These are facts about the true number of deaths related to the flu (257) in the United States ...
CDC does not distinguish between deaths caused by an influenza virus and deaths due to pneumonia. The two are lumped together in their mortality statistics and pneumonia-related deaths are reported as having an initial influenza cause. For example, if we take the combined figure of flu and pneumonia deaths for the flu period of 2001, and spin the figures, we are left believing that 62,034 people died from influenza. The actual figures are 61,777 died from pneumonia and only 257 from flu.
The above article also implies that profits (billions of dollars) are powering the push to get everyone vaccinated, and I'm not so sure they have it wrong. Pharmaceutical companies have proven time and time again that they have no problem putting profits ahead of patients.
Lastly, there is the issue of long term safety of the flu vaccine. Many question whether these vaccines will ultimately cause our bodies to lose the natural immunity it has to the flu, which could have devastating effects. And since the flu vaccine has only been used on such a large scale for the last 15-20 years, there is no way to prove that the vaccine is safe for long-term (essentially a lifetime) use. But these are questions that are impossible to answer now, they can only be answered with time. However, if the consequences are determined to be dangerous, the harm will have already been done.
Okay, I'm stepping off of my soap-box. Now that you know how I feel about this topic, what do you think? Were you surprised by any of the facts in this post? Do you ever question the safety of the flu vaccine? Will you and your family be getting a flu shot this season? Have I at least convinced you that flu shots shouldn't be mandatory for health care workers? Let me know your thought in comments.
- A "how to" for hospital administrators for using deception and omission to get health care workers to comply flu vaccine programs.
- Approximately 23% of people under age 65 will develop the common cold (this is not the flu and a flu vaccine cannot prevent it) each year.
- This is an interesting read - Does the Flu Vaccine Matter?
- Post by BlogHer Mir - Swine Flu, Seasonal Flu, and Vaccinations.
- 5 Steps to Effective Hand Washing
Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com