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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Flu Season Stirs Vaccination Controversy

Published January 14, 2013 1:11 PM by Rich Krisher
Flu season has arrived early, and in ferocious fashion. Many hospitals are experiencing overcrowded emergency departments, with some in the Chicago area going on diversion and at least one in Pennsylvania erecting a mobile ED to accommodate the flood of patients.

Widespread influenza activity has been reported in 41 states, according to the CDC. Last week, a public health emergency was declared in Boston, which reportedly is experiencing a 10-fold spike in flu cases compared to the same period last year. In the Charlotte, NC, area, Carolinas HealthCare System responded to a near-tripling of patients experiencing flu-like symptoms by restricting visitors under the age of 12 at all of its inpatient hospitals.

It's not too late to get a flu shot if you are so inclined. The Joint Commission is phasing in a requirement that accredited organizations establish annual voluntary influenza vaccination programs for all staff and licensed independent practitioners, with a goal of 90% flu vaccination rate by 2020.

Some hospitals are taking it further by requiring staff to get vaccinated. Seven staff members, including at least three nurses, recently lost employment at Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital after they refused to comply with a vaccine requirement. We reported on the situation at and the article generated several comments in support of those affected.

"My heart goes out the nurses who lost their jobs due to refusal of the flu shot," writes Karen Christopher of Spring Hill, TN. "I totally understand their position. ... I am a nurse, don't get the flu shot and wear a mask required by my facility during the six-month flu season."

What an unfortunate circumstance where frontline healthcare workers, who rely on science in so much of their practice, must be forced into vaccinations recommended by public health experts and healthcare organizations. Getting the flu vaccine isn't a scheme hatched by Big Pharma or Big Brother - it's common sense.


How ignorant of you Mr Krishner to assume that nurses and health care workers lack common sense for not getting a flu shot. Getting the flu vaccine should be a personal choice, not a requirement. Your two cents draws away from the "controversy" of this article, and perhaps it should be re-titled.

The only  "unfortunate circumstance" is that this article is one-sided and poorly written.

Erika Rodriguez, RN February 13, 2013 12:12 AM
Jersey City NJ

We rely on science because it is what is taught in Nursing school. How about we require the pharmaceutical companies to provide all ingredients and how these vaccines are made and where they are made BY LAW to the public and healthcare professionals NOW that is common sense Richard Krisher.  I'm a RN and I do not wish to get vaccinated just because it is recommended I want to see for myself if I believe this vaccine is beneficial to me I have a right to refuse.

Patricia , RN January 23, 2013 5:15 PM

i havent taken the flu shot in many years. the few times i did i felt really bad for a few days after. I do not think that i should be forced to take something that makes me sick when i have never had the flu and trust me i have waded thru plenty of cases in my seventeen years as a nurse; even had my husband and two sons down with it at the same time and took care of them and never contracted it. i do not think your employer should be able to force you to take vaccinations of any kind. they should give you all the risks and benefits and let you decide. losing your job over something like that is ridiculous. if they dont take it and contract the flu send them home with no pay.

D Woods, nursing - D.O.N January 23, 2013 9:25 AM

As I sit home recovering from the flu after having received the vaccine this fall, I am reminded that it is only 62% effective.  Firing nurses because they personally decline the vaccine IS Big Brother.  Let us never forget this is America where we are supposed to have the freedom to choose what we do with our bodies.

Jacqueline, OB-GYN - CNM, Metropolitan Hospital Center January 22, 2013 3:53 PM
New York NY

I got the flu shot yearly but in 2004 I developed WEEKS of unrelenting headache.  When it would get better I tried to work and carry on, but being upright would bring on the headache.  Had an LP, went to a neurologist who said my neck muscles were tight causing the headache( I guess rigidly trying not to move my painful head might do that)  I then went to a chiropractor 10days post LP because I had to get back to work.  My neck was manipulated. 3 days later, while IN the neuro office I developed a subdural hematoma, misdiagnosed by the neuro as "your migraine." Multiple testing, multiple MRIs and many missed days of work, changing from ICU to cardiac rehab, back to the ICU I am now back to "normal." So tell me, would you get the flu shot Richard under those circumstances?  BTW isn't it the hospitals that fund your magazine via their ads, who side are you on? Unbiased?

It does not make "common sense" to me.  I have been wearing a mask since early December and all around me are people coughing, sneezing and spreading their germs.  To me a mask is the scarlet letter for those of us who cannot or should not get the flu shot.

Gerri, ICU - RN January 18, 2013 6:09 PM

  The fact that there are many types of Flu is only one reason not to get the vaccine  I am alergic to the vaccine and was told never to take it and I carry a doctor's note to that affect: NO Flu Shot!

Hospitals who fire nurses who refuse it must have more staff than they can use.  That belies the "nursing shortage."  Why not issue masks to all who refuse and let them keep their jobs.

 What about those who get the Flu even after having had the shots? This is more thoughtless nonsense "full of sound and fury."

Gladys Ely Brown, Pediatrics - ADN, retired January 18, 2013 11:39 AM
Ballston Lake NY

how arrogant of you to assume that you know that the reason nurses may not want flu shots is because they believe its a scheme hatched by Big Pharma or Big Brother, not to mention insulting. There are legitimate and educated reasons frontline healthcare workers may choose not to be innoculated and that should be a personal choice.  

jane collins, surgery - rnfa, uphs January 18, 2013 9:16 AM
philadelphia PA

There is a study in the Archives of Pediatrics in October 2008 that has found that vaccinating children less than 5 years of age had no impact on the amount of hospitalizations or doctor visits.  It failed to show that vaccines are effective in this age group.  Also in 2008, Lancet found that influenza vaccine was not associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in the elderly.  

There are 250 strains of the flu, and the vaccines made are only a guess of what strain is out there.  

I feel that the flu vaccine doesn't have a clear benefit, and it's effectiveness is questionable.  

I agree, why put a chemical in your body and run the risk of a lethal reaction, when there are natural ways to protect your body from the flu.  To me that is common sense.  The pharmaceutical companies have failed us before.  There are many medications that have been taken off the market for  severe side effects.  

Anne, NICU - RN, CHS January 17, 2013 6:08 PM
Trenton NJ

I completely disagree on whether it is "common sense." If we look at the evidence and see how often a drug has been released, only to be recalled, it is not a slam-dunk. I understand that the proportions to positive outcomes is higher, however there is still a risk.

There could be a number of reasons why someone would find it "common sense" NOT to get the vaccine. Starting with a basic principle: It's my body and my right to introduce or not introduce a chemical into it. There has to be the alternative like wearing a mask. All the way to the softer side of the spectrum where psychosocial issues instill anxiety into perfectly good practitioners.

In this day and age of coddling and accepting everyone's comforts, surely a mandate to get a vaccine or be terminated is more "extreme" than "common sense."

Debra Braun January 17, 2013 6:45 AM

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