After mandatory anthrax vaccines for the military, we now seem to have mandatory flu vaccines at many healthcare employment places, starting in 2013. In fact eight healthcare workers at Indiana University Health Goshen hospital have already been fired for refusing their flu vaccines, even though they had applied for an exemption on health or religious basis.
Four of the employees had hired North Carolina attorney Alan Phillips, to write exemption recommendations, as he had worked with around 200 health care workers in at least 25 states on vaccine rights issues last fall. The exemption applications were ultimately rejected by the hospital, yet all patients being treated at their hospital continue to have the right to refuse flu vaccinations for themselves.
It remains to be seen if the firings can be challenged under U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC regulations.
What's more, independent scientific studies have found the flu vaccine of questionable benefit in terms of preventing influenza as well as preventing complications and death from influenza. For profit flu vaccine manufacturers have paid for their own studies to claim benefit. So is this yet another manufactured need, we as consumers should be wary of?
Ethel Hoover, who was a critical care nurse at the Goshen hospital, wrestled with the idea of receiving a flu shot and ultimately refused the vaccination. Hoover’s exemption request was denied, and she was let go from her job roughly a month short of her 22nd anniversary at the hospital.
The last time Hoover had a flu shot was about 20 years ago. Hoover said she got sick and decided to never take one again, adding that she was also worried about long-term health effects from the vaccination.
“Your body has its natural responses to fight off certain viruses and infections, and if you continually inoculate your body with something that’s not even guaranteed from preventing you from getting it, why would you do it,” Hoover asked.
With workplace unions in decline all over the US, who will fight for worker rights?
Hoover pointed out that patients are given the option to refuse flu vaccinations and said she should be afforded that same right.
“As a nurse, my passion was to be the best advocate I could be for my patients,” she said. “They knew I could be there for them even if sometimes it caused a rippling of the waters, but as a nurse there was no advocate for me except for several physicians who attempted to go to bat for our cause, but they were denied. So, what message is this sending to the public if this institution shoots down their own patient advocates?”
According to a comprehensive recent article in Scientific American, flu shots are not at all definitively beneficial even among high risk groups, like the young and elderly. So why risk introducing disease agents into your body that can cause you to get sick in the first place? When my daughter was 8 months pregnant, her doctor pressured her to get the flu shot, and regretfully she ended up with a mild case of the flu caused by the flu vaccine itself.
Workers should have the right to refuse.
Hoover's lawyer, Alan Phillips, says his client had the right to refuse her flu shot under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination of employees. Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief, he said, adding that the belief flu shots are bad should suffice.
"If your personal beliefs are religious in nature, then they are a protected belief," Phillips said.