Ind. hospital fires 8 workers who refused flu shot

The flu shot is a crapshoot… it may or may not work, even when the vaccine matches with the predominant virus.

“A northern Indiana hospital has fired eight employees who refused to get flu shots the hospital says are needed to protect patients from the potentially deadly illness.” [Associated Press]

From the CDC:

How well do inactivated influenza vaccines work in randomized control trials?

As noted above, effectiveness varies with vaccine match and the age and immune function of the recipient. In general, the greatest benefits of influenza vaccines have been reported in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) conducted among healthy adults. For example, recent RCTs of inactivated influenza vaccine among adults under 65 years of age have estimated 50-70% vaccine efficacy during seasons in which the vaccines’ influenza A components were well matched to circulating influenza A viruses (Beran et al., 2009, 2006-2007 season; Jackson et al., 2010, 2005-2006 season; Monto et al., 2009, 2007-2008 season). As vaccine efficacy from a randomized clinical trial is the gold standard for how well a vaccine actually works, vaccine effectiveness estimates obtained from observational studies can equal, but not exceed, estimates of efficacy. Many factors that can result in substantial bias in effectiveness studies tend to bias the vaccine effect downwards.

How well do influenza vaccines work during seasons in which the vaccine strains are not well matched to circulating influenza viruses?

When vaccine strains are not well matched with circulating influenza viruses, the benefits of vaccination may be reduced. For example, inactivated influenza vaccine effectiveness against laboratory-confirmed influenza was 60% among healthy persons and 48% among those with high-risk medical conditions in a case-control study among people 50–64 years old during the 2003-2004 influenza season, when the vaccine strains were not optimally matched to viruses in circulation (Herrera et al., 2007). However, in a year when the influenza vaccine and predominant circulating influenza viruses were poorly matched, researchers were not able to measure an effect of influenza vaccination against the respective vaccine component (Bridges et al., 2000). It is not possible to predict how well the vaccine and circulating strains will be matched in advance of the influenza season, and how this match may affect vaccine effectiveness.

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12 responses to “Ind. hospital fires 8 workers who refused flu shot

  1. GoneWithTheWind

    Your theory seems to be because the flu shot isn’t perfect then the health care worker should be able to refuse it. But given the science in it a health care worker refusing the flu is like a catholic priest refusing communion. The motive of the hospital is clear, they don’t want all their workers out sick at the hieght of the flu season. The motive of the health care worker is suspect. If they are allergic to it then obviously they would be exempted. So you have to wonder what there reason is. Could it be they don’t believe in science based medicine? If so then that alone would be reason enough to fire them.

    • It’s not that the flu shot isn’t perfect… it’s a 50-50 proposition when the vaccine matches the prevalent strain. So can an employer compel you to do something to your body that is likely to be irrelevant to the workplace? Can an employer force you to stop smoking or drinking? Can an employer compel you to exercise?

    • Actually, because they believe in science-based medicine, it could be reason for a medical professional to oppose being forced to do something that has little strong supportive scientific evidence. It seems intuitively correct that a seasonal flu vaccine in healthcare workers could help protect patients and reduce transmission in hospitals, but it has not been shown to be the case. Unlike vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, the reviews of the evidence on seasonal flu shots (by Cochrane Collaborative and others such as the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy recently published in Lancet, which looked at nearly 50 years of research and nearly 6,000 clinical studies), found almost no effect on patients and that the benefits and effectiveness of flu shots have been overstated. It’s not that the flu shots are dangerous, but at what point to healthcare professionals have autonomy over their own bodies and what is the cutoff where the precautionary principle and calls for the public good legitimately override the rights of individuals?

  2. Yes, Steve, They can if those are part of your conditions of employment. Maintaining vaccinations are part of the conditions of employment for health care workers as being sober (and proving it on demand) is required to be on a DOT regulated site. As a retired microbiologist(Ph.D.) I understand the arguments (pro and con), and so did or should have the health care workers when they signed their contracts.

    • I know they do. The question is whether they should. Unlike say, MMR, the flu vaccine arguably doesn’t work and is just another BigPharma scam.

  3. While I definitely accept your arguments against mass vaccination against the flu, healthcare workers are a different matter.
    1: They have high access and exposure to those who are immunologically compromised,
    2: They are almost certain to be exposed to the disease over the course of the year,
    3: Even if they are not directly exposed to either type of patient, they are certain to be exposed to all of the other doctors, nurses, and other workers. Herd immunity is important ESPECIALLY with a weak vaccine.
    4: A round of flu at the office or a school means that not much work gets done. Should 10 people call out of a classroom, you do fun activities with the sub. Should 10 people call out of a hospital, care suffers, and people can die.

    The balance of judgement is considerably shifted where healthcare workers are concerned. I cannot fault the hospital for mandating a vaccine that reduces the chance of their workers catching the flu by 50-70%.

  4. That 50-70% figure (if accurate) only applies to years when there is a good match between the vaccine and virus.

    • If it were 30%, I would consider it a worthwhile investment for Healthcare workers, if no one else, for the reasons that I stated above.

  5. I hate to be a spoilsport but no one appears to be concerned over the horrific and well documented side-effects of vaccines, or the fact that vaccination does not prevent anyone from contacting flu and passing on the virus.
    You talk of a 50-50 chance of the vaccine working, others quote a 3% effectiveness, which may explain why the companies are, (a) refusing to publish their blind trials. (b) why they have been granted immunity from litigation over side-effects.
    All vaccinations against new flu virus are in effect experimental and therefore coercion should not be tolerated.
    Many of us remember the last lab manufactured swine flu panic, when Czech scientists discovered vaccines, manufactured by Baxters, and due to be distributed to fifteen countries, had been infected with live Bird Flu vaccine. Something that could not happen by chance was dismissed by a statement from the WHO, to the effect, “Manufacturers of vaccines routinely release rare flu viruses into populations, in order to test the effectiveness of their vaccines.”
    My advice – never roll your sleeve up.

  6. Ben,
    If we assume the risks of the vaccine are zero, then your argument has some strength. But the risks are never zero and we have to weigh them against the potential benefit. With effectiveness unknown and potentially next to zero, I have to wonder if even small potential risks outweigh the use of such a vaccine. Remember the first rule of medicine: first do no harm.

  7. The CDC does not work for US, they are only a front for the Drug companies profits. If they had worked for us we would not now be listening to multiple countries tell us all the syn dromes, psych disease and cancers are caused by multiple infections because they gave us all the real cause of AIDS by using spirchetal contaminated vaccine cell lines for over 30yrs..

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