family practice issues and general life events

Fired over a flu shot

The past day there has been a increase in traffic over social media outlets about nurses at an Indiana hospital who were fired over having refused a flu shot.  What, isn’t this America, shouldn’t there be some say over what you put in your body?  Why, why why?  If you were in a field such as business, this would be easy, the answer should be no.  However, these employees work in a hospital.

And who do you find in hospitals?  Sick and debilitated people, brand new babies and recent surgeries.

Who are most at risk of serious complications if catch the flu?  The elderly, the debilitated and brand new babies.

And who are most prone to transmit diseases in the hospital from going from room to room?—-

And what profession probably goes to work sick more than any other?

And who gets exposed to more diseases than any other?

Over the years, hospitals have tried to figure out how to deal with those that refuse the vaccine, they have to wear a badge on their uniform or mask during flu season, but people say that it points them out.  or they promise to stay home when they feel sick.  Sorry you start transmitting the virus before you feel sick.

So what is the hospital to do?

Well most hospitals tried to alleviate the needle phobia with mist, even though it is slightly more expensive.  They allowed religious and true allergy exemptions.  And they tried the employees staying home when they felt ill.  Have you tried to run a hospital short staffed?  Doesn’t work so well.

There are those that argue that it is my body, I should be able to decide what to put into it.  But what about the converse, what right do you have to potentially infect those that have the weakest immune systems.  These nurses are working in the public health arena, therefore their actions affect a greater number of individuals, and the hospital is charged with improving and benefiting the public good.

If the flu shot is so effective, why do I have to get it every year, or why do some years people still get the flu?

The flu changes every year.  People who produce the vaccine look at patterns world wide and make an educated guess as to what strains are most likely to come to the US.  Current vaccines have 2 Strains of type A and 2 strains of type B.  There are literally thousands of strains out there.  The years it “doesn’t work” well they guessed wrong or the strain mutated.  But this year, reports are that they are pretty accurate on the strains chosen.  However, immunity wanes with time, and flu mutates fast, so a new vaccine is required for next year.

“Every time I get the flu shot, I get the flu” sometimes people feel mild symptoms 24-48 hours after wards.  IF you received the shot, the virus is KILLED, which means it CANNOT infect you, the flu mist is deactivated.  IF you came down with the flu within 2 weeks of getting the shot, well you waited too long to get the vaccine and were ALREADY infected with the flu.  It takes 2 weeks for ANY vaccine to take full effect.  Which is why recommendations are currently to start vaccinating when you have the flu vaccine- we started in September. It is now supposed to last 12 months.

What the flu is?  The flu is a respiratory virus.

The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)


The flu is not nausea and vomiting and diarrhea.  (though those can accompany it)  The so-called “Stomach flu” is not cause by influenza, instead it is usually caused by rotovirus, novovirus, etc.  And a flu shot will not protect you from this.

As for these nurses, should they have been fired?  If it is in the policies of their employer, probably.  They work in the arena of public health and could potentially infect thousands of people.  Is this a violation of their civil rights? Well, it wasn’t done by the government.  They chose their field, and while they might be the best nurses ever, they fail at their duties to protect the public.

In my office, I give flu shots for free.  I am required to check the status of hepatitis, mmr, and other communicable diseases and if they are not immune offer the vaccination for hepatitis B.  This is to protect both the employee and my patients.  The hospitals requirements are similar.  In arguing the employee has a right as to what they put in their body, you also have to argue the employer has the right to protect others on their staff and their clientele.  We are not talking about a CPA firm, we are talking about hospital employees and public health.  The employer has the right and duty to protect its staff and patients.


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