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Hospitals across the US are forcing employees to be vaccinated or be fired

Holly Hicks,

Hospitals across the US are forcing employees to be vaccinated or be fired

Deciding to get a flu shot is a personal choice for most of us but is becoming a choice which many health care workers are being coerced to make or face termination.

All across the US, health facilities are giving their employees and ultimatum: get a flu shot, or get fired. Hundreds of health care providers have already lost their jobs. In October 2012, Rhode Island implemented a mandate for all health care workers with direct patient contact to be immunized. In Ohio, TriHealth offered its 11,000 employees flu shots, and fired more than 150 workers who didn’t comply by November 2012 deadline. These mandates might have done more to boot doctors and nurses from their jobs than to protect people’s health.

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most people get a flu shot, a new review of studies published by The Lancet Infectious Diseases finds that early flu vaccines are generally only 59% effective against current flu strains for people ages 18 to 65, the age range which encompasses most working adults. This lack of effectiveness means that getting a flu shot should be advised, rather than mandated, and refusing to get a flu shot should not be a terminable offense.

Health care professionals can refuse the vaccine if they have medical reasons or if their religious beliefs prohibit them from getting it. For example, people with allergies to eggs (the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs) or with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome should not get the flu shot. Religious reasons include not wanting to receive a vaccination because some faiths have tenets that prohibit invasions of the body or that disallow animals to have been harmed in the making of the vaccine.

At the same time, not all of the ingredients in flu vaccines are healthful. One ingredient in the typical flu shot is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Another, thimerosal, contains mercury, which is known to impair immune and neurological systems. Scroll further down the list and you’ll also find detergents, antibiotics, chemicals and allergens like polysorbate-80 that causes infertility.

As well as containing antigens which cause the body to develop immunity, vaccines also contain other ingredients introduced during the manufacturing process for stabilization. These types of ingredients are listed below.

 Type of Ingredient Examples Purpose 
Preservatives Thimerosal (only in multi-dose vials of flu vaccine) To prevent contamination
Adjuvants Aluminum salts To help stimulate the body’s response to the antigens
Stabilizers Sugars, gelatin To keep the vaccine potent during transportation and storage
Residual cell culture materials Egg protein To grow enough of the virus or bacteria to make the vaccine
Residual inactivating ingredients Formaldehyde To kill viruses or inactivate toxins during the manufacturing process
Residual antibiotics Penicillin, sulfa drugs To prevent contamination by bacteria during the vaccine manufacturing process

In instances where employees are not vaccinated, health facilities are requiring  non vaccinated workers to wear surgical masks. Unfortunately, the mask has become a scarlet letter of the non-compliant, singling out those who choose to exercise their rights to adverse treatment from co-workers, while violating their privacy. Meanwhile, the science supporting mask wearing is weak. The CDC says, “it is difficult to assess their potential effectiveness” and does not know if masks can prevent the spread of the new H1N1 virus.

Masking workers and requiring flu shots gives the illusion of protection while providing no real benefit to the public. Instead of making the flu shot or mask an employment condition, health care workers should be educated about hygiene and hand washing as preventative measures to spreading the flu. They should be given easy access to the vaccine so they can use it if they choose. Employers should provide sick employees with enough sick leave to be able stay home and get well rather than spreading flu to the co-workers and the public.

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