Nurses fired for refusing flu vaccine

It’s the last day of summer, which means the autumn flu season looms ahead of us. It was a particularly bad flu season in the US, officially reaching epidemic levels in January. Also in January, several nurses there were fired for refusing to have the flu vaccine, which their employers had made mandatory in the light of the severity of the epidemic.

At least 15 nurses were fired, while in the small state of Rhode Island more than 1000 workers signed a petition against making the vaccine compulsory. There’s also a Facebook page called People Against Mandatory Flu Shots for Healthcare Workers. There have been previous legal cases in the US on behalf of nurses trying to stop compulsory flu vaccination – some of which have succeeded.

Ethel Hoover wore black on her last day at work after being fired for refusing the vaccine - she’d been employed there for 22 years.

Why would health care workers refuse the vaccine? Allergy, religious objections and scepticism about whether vaccinating health workers will prevent flu in patients are some of the reasons.

While mandates for vaccinating against other diseases, including measles, mumps and hepatitis, are widely accepted, some have less faith that flu shots work — there are several types of flu virus that often differ each season and vaccines must be reformulated each year to try and match the circulating strains.

Carla Brock was fired after 11 years as a pre-admissions nurse for refusing to wear a mask because she’d refused the vaccine.

The argument is getting louder for compulsory vaccination of healthcare workers, but in NSW influenza vaccine is recommended but not compulsory. The NSW Department of Helath’s policy PD2011_005 covers vaccination issues. It is now compulsory for all new staff to be vaccinated against specified vaccine-preventable diseases but not longterm staff.

It’s unlikely that a nurse here would get fired for refusing the flu vaccine, however if they refuse they will often be put in an environment where they’ll be less likely to come into contact with infections and this might not give them job satisfaction.

What do you think – do you get the flu vaccine? Do you think it’s helped you avoid the flu or get a less severe dose? Do you support mandatory flu vaccine for nurses?

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22 Responses to Nurses fired for refusing flu vaccine

  1. Wyzolma says:

    I will not allow such an assault on my body. Nurses must have strong boundaries and practise self-care. I have seen too many people laid low after having flu vaccines and I question the safety of all vaccines until they can be completely proven to be free of toxic preservatives.

  2. Ulli Radtke says:

    I would rather be sacked than have the flu vaccine. I am very rarely sick and believe in practicing what I preach by eating a healthy diet, doing regular exercise and looking after myself with natural remedies. I will not let anyone tell me I need to inject poisons into my body to protect others. I have not had the flu in years, with most of my vaccinated colleagues getting the flu every year. My health is my responsibility and not the government’s. I will not go on a pap register either or be told what to do. I work in health education and strongly encourage every client to take charge of their own health. The results are incredible and I would love to dare everyone to try it ;)

    • Andrew says:

      You work in health education but remain ignorant to the various studies conducted on the benefits of vaccinations. You face the risk of exposing patients to the flu as you may unknowingly be a carrier. If everybody had your train of thoughts, there would be a pandemic in Australia. I am glad it is only the minority with these foolish ideas. The sackings are justified.

      • Ulli says:

        My foolish ideas are well researched (Lancet, BMJ,Medline,etc). I do not call you ignorant as you have the absolut right to believe what you believe. And I would always fight for your rights. After 40 years working in health, I have also made my own observations. Your reply sounds harsh and rigid. Shame, as we are all so varied. But I do respect your choices.

        • Dan White says:

          But is this any different than a healthcare employer requiring that you have Hep B immunity and a whole range of other vaccinations? And there’s much much stronger empirical evidence (with WHO) to show that fluvax works than it doesn’t, and if you believe it doesn’t work, do you tell your patients that they should avoid fluvax?

      • Judy says:

        The flu vaccine has not been demonstrated to prevent influenza disease in the community. It is stated on the CSL Prescribing Information for influenza vaccine:
        ” there have been no controlled clinical trials demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with Afluria (called Enzira in UK and Fluvax in Australia).
        Until there is scientific evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of this vaccine in the community there is no case for pressuring workers to use this vaccine. There have also been no long-term health studies demonstrating the safety of this vaccine against unvaccinated and un-adjuvanated individuals.

      • MikeB says:

        I’m not saying vaccines don’t have some efficacy but they still lack proof relative to long term immunity, herd immunity and the possibly dangerous effects of adjuvants and stabilisers, so in balance it’s probably safer to err on the side of caution.

        But let’s just focus upon the flu vaccine…

        When the CDC or news press quote the vaccine is 62% effective they don’t mean that for every 100 people vaccinated 62 of them will be protected or not get the flu. It’s an epidemiological study, the control group is compared to the general populace. In this case only 1.62 people (out of 100 people) who are unvaccinated get the flu every year. The study of vaccinated people showed that when 100 people were vaccinated only 1 person got the flu…so technically, statistically, the risk of flu was reduced by .62 (this is not even one whole person), this is not 62% out of 100 people. This is how the drug companies lie and twist the facts.

    • Kathy says:

      Andrew, if the patient and others have had their flu shots then they should be protected and not at risk. What you are saying is that the vaccines do not work and I am one who has actually read the back of a flu package that few will see and funnily enough what is quoted made me cringe. First the flu vaccine is NOT for the common flu that you contract for a few days with a tummy bug, but for “influenza”, the one that infected 500 million and killed 50 to 100 million in 1918 — 3 to 5 percent of the world’s population. The particular one that I had read was for the Bejing, Hong Kong and Panama influenza strain and risks associated with taking the vaccine were the same as getting influenza, it was meant only for immune-comprised persons, people working within that group and older people, however it was only 1% effective in that small group. It also stated that it would destroy any natural immunity that you had to influenza and was not safe for pregnant woman. In NZ the largest telecom provider paid to have all their staff vaccinated across the country with these shots and within the following month there was 60-70% absenteeism in staff and they never repeated it again. Other large corporations reported similar findings.

  3. Rosemary Lorrimar says:

    I never have the flu vaccine; the one time I did, under bullying tactics by my then DON, I was extremely ill with high fevers, etc. I usually get a cold or flu about every 5 or 6 years, which I see as boosting my immune system, and in between I am very well. I had a bad dose of flu last year so don’t expect to get it this year. I would not be happy if it were to be compulsory.

  4. Esther Grogg says:

    I am a RN working in the NSW Health System. I am against mandatory vaccination as it is not safe and many vaccinations are still toxic. I know many of my colleagues who had side effects after a whooping cough vaccination for up to 1-2 months. Often flu vaccinations don’t work. As long as I can refuse what’s going into my body, I will.

  5. Sooz says:

    I don’t have Fluvax, as the only time I did, I reacted to it. Lovely rash head to toe! I have a latex allergy and Fluvax contains latex – wish I’d known that – although it is unknown whether that is the cause of the reaction or if it was the vaccine itself. My other issue with it is that it doesn’t prevent the true pandemic strains and has only 70% efficacy against known strains. Interesting to note that it reacts with warfarin as well and many elderly people whom Fluvax is recommended for also take warfarin.

    Despite knowing about my allergy, the latex-free one hasn’t been ordered and so I refuse it every year and am made to feel like a leper at times.

  6. Bev L. Pattenden says:

    I am not a nurse, but I have relatives who have left the profession and refused to be vaccinated or have their children vaccinated. I also know of Respite carers who will no longer do voluntary work because of the need to be vaccinated. Day Carers will also be harder to find with all the stupid restrictions placed on them.
    Congratulations, all those who have made a stand against this onslaught on our freedom.

  7. Brett Larsson says:

    I work for a nursing agency which provides flu vaccinations to their staff, for the past 3 years I have been immunised, have not been sick at all. I think it is interesting how the blame for illness is levelled at the manufacturers of vaccines. If one reads the consumer information, there is very little chance the vaccination can cause the flu, it is a mild immunologic antigen antibody reaction by the body. People who do get full blown flu following fluvax have been exposed to the virus during the time that it takes for the body to produce antibodies to it. I am all for vaccination, however people have the right to choose. I personally choose to have the shot.

    • Sian Morton says:

      There is actually no chance that the vaccine can cause influenza since it is not a live virus. I think any health worker who chooses not have the influenza vaccination after reading the evidence needs to ask themselves if they really have what it takes to be responsible, evidence based health professionals. What else do they ‘reckon’ they will disregard in terms of the sound science upon which we base our practice. If I were in a position of authority working in the health system I would not have them working in my team.

      I do not support compulsory vaccination for the wider community but believe health care workers should have more sense. Look for other work.

      Most of this is based on fear-mongering nonsense.

      I suggest all nurses ignore the advice of people whose expertise and experience is limited to the Cretaceous and Jurassic Foraminifera. Dr Viera Scheibner’s doctorate was obtained in 1964 in the area of Natural Sciences (RNDr.) from the Comenius University in Bratislava. She knows a lot about fossils.

      • Julie says:

        People used to believe the earth is flat as well. I respect your beliefs and I just ask the same from you. As a researcher, RN and therapist I have enough skills under my belt to find my own truth. It does not need to sit right with you or with the pharmaceutical companies (I used to work for them as an international educator and the work ethics I encountered there started me off on my questioning journey of discoveries). I really do not want to change your mind or anyone else’s, but please let me be in the “Jurassic Foraminifera” as you so eloquently call it. I am quite happy there ;)

  8. Dan White says:

    There’s some interesting issues here, but what would be nice if all those nurses that go on about ‘my choice’ and ‘my body’ extended the same considerations to mothers who choose not to have their own children immunised.

    • Ulli Radtke says:

      You are absolutely right. I believe in informed choice and support any woman who does not want to vaccinate or who wants to vaccinate. Most of the time however mothers do not want to explore their options and I have to admit that it is much easier to go along with what is recommended by the health professionals/ Dep of Health Policies. Often people start to consider their options only when things go wrong/ eg side effects. I would never recommend not to vaccinate a child but would fully support a woman who chooses not to.

      • Dan White says:

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here Ulli: our job is to give the patients enough information to make an informed choice. The additional issue is that if the employer views it as a workplace requirement, like Hep B and all those vaccinations, should it be mandatory? No employer I ever worked for made it mandatory, but gave us the information about the fluvax and let us choose for ourselves.

        • Sandra Hickmott says:

          So pleased I have come across this site with like- minded people. I have had vaccines over the years but never the flu vaccine and immunized my two boys as children ( now 23 and 21 yrs old) under duress. But no more vaccines for me. I have followed the vaccine debate over the past 20 years. I am a nurse and find in NSW the MOH policy to be draconian – no adherence to their vaccine requirements, no job. Particularly with Boostrix. Only know of 1 case where a healthcare worker challenged through the courts and won. Is actually a violation of human rights under the International Code of Human Rights. Anyone has the right to refuse treatment. Vaccines are controversial amongst doctors and researchers and have been for years.
          I wonder about people who support mass vaccinations how much research have they done themselves before supporting the programme. Have these people seen vaccine damaged children? In the USA I read just recently that $1.2b is spent by pharmaceutical companies in compensation for those people, mainly children, damaged from vaccines. The number of vaccines children are given now is staggering. In USA like 40 vaccines under the age of 5. A young baby is given an injection in each limb at the one visit containing at least 8 vaccines. Some children who develop autistic spectrum disorder post-vaccines can over months using a knowledgeable naturopath detoxify successfully. But how many parents know this and can afford it? Authorities deny a link with autism and vaccines.
          GPs can’t agree if a child has had a reaction to a vaccine to continue with the schedule or not. A reaction to a vaccine has to be deemed severe enough to be reported. How many GPs recognize a vaccine reaction and how many then notify the appropriate dept? I suggest there is under-reporting.
          The general public has the belief they get ‘protection’ from vaccines. Vaccines are intended to prevent people getting the serious illness and to get a milder form, not to prevent a person getting the disease outright. Also misinformation about unvaccinated people causing outbreaks highlights this misunderstanding people have. Scientists state those who are unvaccinated cannot be blamed for the spread of these infectious diseases. Not everyone develops antibodies only 75% with Boostrix, so 25% of people who have had their shot have no protection and = the unvaccinated group. But there is no testing done to check so a person doesn’t know their actual immunity. No vaccine is 100% effective.This is a fact yet the media allow this impression to fester.
          In recent outbreaks of whooping cough in NSW (?2004) 5 times more children contracted the disease who were immunized compared to the unvaccinated children. All these statistics can be found on the official NSW Health ministry site.
          Re the flu vaccine – A Canadian study (2012) researchers found why people who received the flu vaccine got the flu. This happens as the vaccine lowers a persons immunity hence they become more vulnerable and catch the flu. But not a direct cause and effect as the flu vaccine is not a live vaccine. Few vaccines if any are live.
          A nurse has recently (April, 2013) been in ICU with pneumonia after having the flu vaccine. Was talk about there being a ‘bad batch’ – I would like to know what that means.
          One person stated ‘Are we trading infectious diseases for cancer later on’? Also acknowledgement has to be made that vaccines are very profitable. Any population where there is mass vaccination undertaken is one huge experiment and the utilitarian rule applies. The Meningococcal vaccine in NZ in 1993 was untested and given to under 21 year olds and newborn babies after widespread fear was generated. Was a big investigation afterwards as the Scandinavian country that produced it never gave it to children under 12 months old. So who do you trust to provide honest information? Over the years so much was covered up by officials and it’s still going on.
          High doses of Vitamin C intravenously have saved lives. Check out Alan Smith from NZ when he contracted the bird/swine flu and a form of leukemia. Vitamin C given to those who developed polio in the 1940s in the US survived without the serious complications. This is all well documented not hearsay.
          The more I have read from reputable sites the more convinced I am that in the future there will be research showing more risks than benefits from vaccines.

          Do people know in NSW (? all of Australia) that privately run facilities like childcare centres, private hospitals, GPs, etc do not have a mandatory requirement for their employees to have scheduled vaccinations. They are encouraged to have the vaccines. They are not regulated to. Also we know children spread most of the diseases. Do parents of children who attend these centres know this? If they are strong proponents of vaccines they would want this changed? Their child would receive the vaccines but have their children developed immunity?
          As a vegetarian for 30 years I object to having bovine components injected into my body, also vaccines contain formaldehyde, aluminum (implicated in Alzheimers) plus other nasties. Mercury has been removed in recent years – why?
          Doctors have the lowest immunization rates in the USA. 80% of adults are not up-to-date with the schedule. In NZ nurses and doctors have the lowest uptake of the flu vaccine, how do people explain this away? Educated people – surely doctors would be high on the list? Anyone explain this?
          Sandy

  9. I suggest that all nurses read the vaccination instructions for the politicians, They emphasise that vaccination is not mandatory.

  10. Cheryl says:

    For those who believe that the flu vaccine has some merit, I refer you to
    http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults
    Cochran summary: Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults
    Published Online: June 4, 2013

    “Authors’ conclusions:
    Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.

    WARNING:
    This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”

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