Firing Health Workers for refusing a flu shot:

Patients can refuse a flu shot. Should doctors and nurses have that right, too? That is the thorny question surfacing as U.S. hospitals increasingly crack down on employees who won’t get flu shots, with some workers losing their jobs over their refusal.

“Where does it say that I am no longer a patient if I’m a nurse,” wondered Carrie Calhoun, a longtime critical care nurse in suburban Chicago who was fired last month after she refused a flu shot….Most doctors and nurses do get flu shots. But in the past two months, at least 15 nurses and other hospital staffers in four states have been fired for refusing, and several others have resigned, according to affected workers, hospital authorities and published reports.

I certainly agree that health care workers should be strongly encouraged to be immunized, as they work in a place where infectious people, and people at the greatest risk for dying of the disease, will congregate. Still if the patients (and the general population, as they don’t become patients until they become sick) aren’t being forced to be immunized, then they are just as much of a disease vector as the workers.

Also with philosophies like herd immunity a few refusals (which what this whole article is about) isn’t going to matter.

It seems a shame to be making so much noise about this.

h/t Mrs. Weer’d

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9 Responses to Anti-Freedom

  1. Divemedic says:

    When I was in graduate school, I was told by one professor that the needs of the herd to be immune from disease outweighed the individual’s right to not be immunized, and if that meant that 1/10,000 of them had to suffer side effects, that was a worthwhile sacrifice.
    This particular professor was a nurse from Berkley in the 60’s, and was a hard core lefty. I pointed out to her that if the survival of the herd outweighed the individual, didn’t that mean that homosexuality should be a crime? She hated me.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Sad that the “Collective Rights” bullshit has infiltrated medicine as well.

      Also gotta love the double standards. Like how right now in San Francisco it is illegal to smoke a cigarette on a public sidewalk, because its dirty and unhealthy.

      But smoking a joint on the sidewalk is 100% because “It’s Medicine”.

      If that makes any sense to you, then you might be “Progressive”.

  2. Geodkyt says:

    I can see one justification to requiring health care practitioners to get a particular immunization as a requirement for their employment.

    The health care practitioners is intimately involved with people who are already sick — a certain percentage of whom have compromised immune systems.

    The argument is that we don’t want to increase the risk that Nurse McCarthy is going to spread the flu to a patient who is likely to die from exposure, due to their transplant meds, chemo, HIV, etc.

    The legal question comes, “Is mandatory immunization for these employees specified by the employment contract or law?”

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Well there are no laws here, it appears to be terms of employment.

      • wizardpc says:

        If it’s terms of employment then it’s not anti-freedom. Law is one thing, commerce is another.

        Every hospital in my area is properly posted with a legally binding “No Guns Allowed” sign. So are all the local and state government buildings. And all the malls.

        I have a choice: don’t carry, or don’t work one of those jobs.

        These nurses have the same choice.

      • Geodkyt says:

        Then that’s all she wrote. If one of the conditions of having the job is, “Get required immunizations so you don’t inadvertently kill immuno-compromised patients with your easily preventable minor [well, minor to an otherwise healthy person] disease,” then you can get the required immunization or find another employer.

        Given the specific circumstances of health care providers, this is functionally identical to laws or employment regs that prohibit you from working as a commercial passenger driver or pilot while on legally perscribed drugs that significantly impair your ability to safely control the craft in an emergency situation.

  3. Brad_in_MA says:

    I have a cousin who is allergic to eggs, and since the flu vaccines are grown on an egg substrate, he’s allergic to the vaccine as well. If ‘cuz’ gets a flu shot, he goes into shock. Were ‘cuz’ a health-care working in this gig, he’s not, I wonder if he would be fired, or exempted. I can only hope this silly rules is not a mindless one-size-fits-all kind of no exceptions policy. Ugh.

    • Geodkyt says:

      Might not be any different than an airline pilot with epilepsy. If your medical condition ends up posing a credible threat to other people during the course of your work, you can be told you cannot work there. The risk to patients with compromised immune systems (and if the patients were perfectly healthy, they’d be less likely to be there in the first place) is real if an unimmunized employee falls ill — they can spread their illness (especially to immuno-compromised individuals) before the employee even realizes they are sick themselves.

      “Herd Immunity” is a population concept; it doesn’t apply to any specific individual.

  4. I agree that it’s an employment issue, but that doesn’t mean those employers aren’t idiots for firing good people that won’t get vaccinated.

    The flu vaccine is only about 60% effective in any given year. Sometimes a little more, but often less. That means the rate of flu incidence in the inoculated population is about 40% of infection rate in the general population, either because those people caught strains not included in the vaccine or the vaccine simply didn’t take. Herd immunity generally requires effectiveness on the order of 80-90%. Which means you’re never going to get meaningful herd immunity for the flu, even if everyone gets the shot.

    It’s possible that hospital administrators don’t realize this, so they’re requiring the shot with the best of intentions. But just as likely is that they’re just penny pinching and looking to reduce the number of sick days taken by their staff. The hospital my wife works at does not require the shot, but does require people that don’t get it to be badged accordingly and also masked in areas with immuno-compromised individuals like maternity wards.

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