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Medicine Science

For Some Medical Workers, a Flu Shot Or Possible Job Loss 541

Posted by timothy
from the greater-good-as-defined dept.
theodp writes "Want to work at Winthrop Hospital? Roll up your sleeve, and we'll talk. TIME reports that every employee at the Long Island hospital — from doctors and nurses who care for patients to the administrative, housekeeping and food-service personnel — must be vaccinated against both seasonal and H1N1 flu or face termination. The mandate comes from the health department of New York, the first state to require all health-care workers to be vaccinated against influenza. Meanwhile, two-thirds of parents say they'll avoid flu shots for their little ones like, well, the flu. So who should you believe — Dr. Bill Frist or 'Dr.' Bill Maher? Before you decide, perhaps a consultation with Dr. Google is in order."
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For Some Medical Workers, a Flu Shot Or Possible Job Loss

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  • The makers of vaccines, if the vaccine makes you sick? http://www.attorneyatlaw.com/2009/07/dont-even-think-about-suing-if-youre-hurt-by-swine-flu-vaccines/ [attorneyatlaw.com]
    • by R2.0 (532027) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:24PM (#29706919)

      "Why is it you can't sue the makers of vaccines, if the vaccine makes you sick?"

      In order for vaccination to "work" - from a public health standpoint - a majority of the population needs to be vaccinated. (I think the number's 75%.) If you are giving that many people a shot someone is going to get sick, even if there is nothing "wrong" with the vaccine. Add to that the fact that vaccines are a low margin product - per the supply/demand curve, it needs to be cheap as possible so the most people will get it.

      So, you have a product that:
      1) will definitely make someone sick and/or kill them
      2) You are barely making any money on it
      3) there is no "informed consent" defense - most vaccines are mandated.

      Why would any company make such a product when they will inevitable get sued for far more than the profit from it? No one would. So the US government, in order to induce the production of vaccines, gave vaccine manufacturers immunity from suit and set up a fund to compensate the people they KNOW will be hurt.

      Short answer - you can't sue for injury from a vaccine because, if you could, there would be no vaccines.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BikeHelmet (1437881)

        Add to that the fact that vaccines are a low margin product

        I have trouble believing that. :P

        Even $6 profit on a vaccine is still 1.2 billion dollars profit if you have 200 million vaccinations.

        But honestly, I've seen the way some of these vaccines are produced, so I have trouble believing they cost more than $0.50 per dose. I haven't kept up on what an H1N1 vaccine costs our governments per dose, but I'm betting the profit is higher than $6.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lucifuge31337 (529072)

        In order for vaccination to "work" - from a public health standpoint - a majority of the population needs to be vaccinated. (I think the number's 75%.)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity [wikipedia.org]

    • You can.

      My girlfriend's mom got a flu shot years back and got nerve damage from it, the settlement is supposed to be in the 6 figure range.
      • by Archfeld (6757) *

        I'd bet there is more to that story than just a bad reaction to a vaccine. Not that is makes it any better for your GF's mom :(

    • by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      The symptoms of the flu, such as cough and nasal drip, are the result of the activation of the immune system. Just because your immune system is recognizing antigen and mounting an immune response does not mean you have been infected with the flu virus. It simply means your immune system is being activated and as a result you will become immune to the flu.

      You are most infected with the virus before you get a single symptom, because the symptoms are your body mounting a response to the virus. Just beca
  • First Flu? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by statusbar (314703)

    First Flu Shot?

    I wonder what happens if a worker has an existing health immune system based condition that can be adversely affected by a flu shot?

    --jeffk++

    • Re:First Flu? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:18PM (#29706869)

      If you've got a compromised immune system, then working at a hosipital is the last thing that you want to do. Getting fired would probably save your life.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:07PM (#29706791)

    With the degree of hype H1N1 is getting, people are going to be searching all over at the first signs of anything - even if they don't have ANY kind of flu!

    So it's a great chart to show you the regions of greatest hypochondria, but little else at this point (in other times I'm sure it's a good indicator).

    • by Trepidity (597)

      They claim they calibrated the model against historical data, so the searchprevalence relationship at least has some validity. The relationship between searches and prevalence of infection might be different in the current situation than in previous years, of course, but they didn't just make a base assumption that searches=prevalence, but rather estimated the relationship from data.

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:08PM (#29706799)

    Aggressive vaccinations are a good thing. Think we could have practically wiped out polio or smallpox in this country if we just kicked back and waited to see what happened? Of course the flu isn't the same, and I know it's not going anywhere. But if you think for a second that every healthcare worker shouldn't get the flu shot, you don't know a lot about healthcare. This sort of thing isn't to protect the workers, it's to protect the immunocompromised people in the hospital. They need our healthy immune systems to protect them, too.

    • Not Same Severity (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Roger W Moore (538166)

      Think we could have practically wiped out polio or smallpox in this country if we just kicked back and waited to see what happened?

      No, but the case for these vaccines was clear since both small pox and polio are incredibly serious diseases resulting in high mortality rates or permanent handicap. For these diseases the rate of serious complications from the vaccine is far, far lower than the rate of serious consequences from the disease so it is very clear that you should vaccinate.

      The problem is that we are now developing vaccines for diseases which have far, far lower rates of complications and fatalities. An example is chicken po

  • by SoVeryTired (967875) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:08PM (#29706803)

    The summary is a little sensationalistic. It says 2/3 of parents are avoiding 'flu shots, whereas the article quotes 22% as the figure, with the remainder saying they would definitely vaccinate, or that they would try to vaccinate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spad (470073)

      But 57 percent of parents were still concerned about their child getting sick with swine flu.

      See, that number is almost 2/3 and it's right there on the same page as the bit about parents refusing to vaccinate their children. It makes perfect sense!

    • by Idiomatick (976696) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:13PM (#29707267)
      My question is why paranoid parents opinions of their children is considered more valid than a head of medicine's. They are biased first off, and ignorant on the subject matter. Seems pretty silly, especially with the "Dr." jab.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        My question is why paranoid parents opinions of their children

        Pretty sure this is based on their opinion of health care professionals, who with the aid of insurance companies have been fucking the public over at every turn since the AMA gained its stranglehold on health care here. I don't trust health care professionals, and as a group they have done nothing to gain that trust.

  • I know about the discussions about possible side effects of the flu jabs.

    But I will accept the common wisdom that you can vaccinate against flu, this added to the for me credible reports this flu is nastier than usual I understand the rule given by this hospital.

    Because when this breaks out in earnest they'll need all their personnel and some.

    • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsnNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @08:29PM (#29707817)

      Actually, there's a bit of confusion. The H1N1 swine flu that they're vaccinating against (as soon as the vaccines are prepared) isn't that much worse than the ordinary seasonal flu. It's the H5N1 that's the reputed killer. And that one isn't spreading widely. (Doesn't seem to be spreading widely?) So this seems to mean that we currently have 3 flu strains in circulation.

      The problem is that if someone gets multiple flus at the same time, the genes are likely to do some swapping. This could easily result in a flu that spreads as easily as the seasonal flu and is as deadly as H5N1 (bird flu). So this year it's especially important to keep the level of flu in the population as low as possible.

      Well, at least that's how I understand it. If someone connected with the health profession could correct any errors, it would probably be beneficial.

  • Hmmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad.YEATSco.uk minus poet> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:10PM (#29706823) Homepage

    Let's see; people who have a very good chance of coming into direct contact with those infected with H1N1 flu on a daily basis and then subsequently coming into contact with others who may be in high-risk groups for said virus being required to get vaccinated against it? Madness, I say. This is what happens when you let government have control over health care. Socialism. Communists. Sky...falling etc.

    Now termination may be a bit harsh, but removal from front-line duties for those who refuse the vaccination seems more than reasonable to me. H1N1 may not be the epic disaster that was predicted, but that doesn't mean we should just ignore it entirely.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916)

      ... or they could install sinks and hand-washing stations in every room.

      More people pick up infections in the hospital than anywhere else, and one of the reasons is that basic sanitary procedures are lacking. Simple things, like doctors washing their hands after contact with a patient (and those clipboards holding charts have a LOT of nasty bugs floating on them).

      Simply having doctors washing their hands between patients reduced infections by 20% in one study.

      Then again, we have grown adults who still

      • Re:Hmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by niko9 (315647) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:21PM (#29707317)

        It's kinda obvious that you have never worked in health care. Let me 'splain Lucy:

        Aside from actually getting health care providers to _actually_ wash their hands, sinks and hand washing don't do much against aerosolized particles especially when someone is coughing in your immediate vicinity.

        You can also spread nasties in all sort of interesting ways, like say, EKG leads, which have been proven to be a vector for MRSA. That reusable blood pressure cuff in the emergency room triage that has been used on all sorts of patients? Think it gets "disinfected" after every patient by the triage nurse? Ha!

    • The insert on FluMist, which is being given to all healthcare workers states:

      FluMist® recipients should avoid close contact with immunocompromised individuals for at least 21 days.

      Why would it say that? Since it is not a killed virus, it can stay in the nasal passage for 3 weeks and easily shed and infect others. Health care workers spend a lot of their time with people who have compromised immune systems. I thought the point of vaccination was to not spread it, yet they'll be doing that by using this vaccine. Many hospitals around the country have recognized this and won't be giving FluMist to their workers

    • Those of us that work in IT, and never got to the hospitals proper (my guys work in an office building away from the hospital and patient care areas), arer still required to take the seasonal flu. H1N1, is actually not required as of yet (there are several nurses unions fighting it). The reason we are required, is that in no way can you predict who will be in contact with patients.. for example half of my guys never leave the building.. several (including me) have to have meetings sometimes on the hospital
  • by SierraPete94 (1641111) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:12PM (#29706831) Homepage

    Maybe my tin foil hat isn't adjusted right, but of all the vaccines out there, the flu shot (or mist as most people get it these days) is about as safest of them all. Incredibly low side effect rate, very effective, and a guarantee that you're going to get a mild version of the flu before everybody else does. Plus, if you are working in a medical care facility, you won't be an oxygen-burning flu contamination source, making it possible to keep the spread of these viruses down to a minimum.

    Yes, the Swine Vaccine in the 70's was very poorly executed and there were many problems. But holy cow folks, it's been over 30 years and medicine has come just a short distance since. For the last 18 years getting a flu shot has been a federally mandated condition of my employment and I don't even work in a health care related field--what the heck is the big deal with getting a flu shot?

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad.YEATSco.uk minus poet> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:19PM (#29706883) Homepage

      You see, this story is the perfect combination of 3 key fears of people lacking the facts (In the US, at least - most of the rest of the world doesn't care about point 1):
      1. Government control of health care
      2. Government using vaccinations to brainwash people (or something equally stupid)
      3. Flu vaccinations killed some people once at some point in history so therefore this one will kill you if you have it

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Well I live under federally mandated, provincially funded health care. Let me just say, free flu shots are nice.
        If the government can brainwash people with vaccinations, awesome. I now have a plan to rule the world.
        The flu vaccine kills people every year, it is however less than those who die from the flu.

        So, let me continue on. Anti-vaxers on the other hand, are idiots. I've always believed that if they want to die, get deformed, or pick up something that I've already got an immunity to great on them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110)

      Incredibly low side effect rate, very effective, and a guarantee that you're going to get a mild version of the flu before everybody else does.

      The reality is quite different.

      The flu vaccine has to be produced several months before flu season. So, if the experts pick the wrong strains, or even if they pick the right ones and the flu mutates in that time, you're no better off.

      In fact, you are worse off, as your immune system is likely to be worse off, trying to fight this new strain of the flu that is similar

      • by raddan (519638) * on Sunday October 11, 2009 @12:06AM (#29708831)

        Freedom to make one's own decisions about medical treatment is a big thing in the US, and people dislike when they are compelled against their will. I'm no exception.

        See, though-- there are some things you just can't control. Boo-hoo, it's raining. No, you can't park your car there. No, you can't keep dumping industrial pollutants out your back door.

        Vaccination is often all or nothing. Call it tyranny of the majority if you like-- most of us want to live. Deal with it.

        Being cognizant of the spread of the virus has a much higher success rate in preventing infection than does immunization.

        I call bullshit. Citation, please.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by evilviper (135110)

          Vaccination is often all or nothing. Call it tyranny of the majority if you like-- most of us want to live. Deal with it.

          Vaccination is NEVER "all or nothing".

          If the vaccination works, you won't get sick, no matter what the rest of the world does. So why do you believe forcing it on everyone is a good idea?

          I call bullshit. Citation, please.

          It's easy to "call bullshit" when you're completely ignorant of a subject, and just insist on enforcing your dogma on everyone else...

          On the off chance that you do actua

          • by Lars512 (957723) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @02:16AM (#29709287)

            Vaccination is often all or nothing. Call it tyranny of the majority if you like-- most of us want to live. Deal with it.

            Vaccination is NEVER "all or nothing".

            If the vaccination works, you won't get sick, no matter what the rest of the world does. So why do you believe forcing it on everyone is a good idea?

            You misunderstand vaccination's main benefit as protecting the vaccinated individual, when it is instead protecting those who would otherwise have been made sick by the now vaccinated individual. If most people get the appropriate vaccinations, all of society is better off, since even if non-vaccinated individuals get sick the illness will have a more difficult time propagating. In other words, vaccination as a society-wide strategy is only effective if a high-enough proportion of people get vaccinated. That's why, if we're vaccinating at all, it's fair enough to force it on everybody who would reasonably find it effective. If you want to be the exception, then you're putting not just yourself but also other people at risk.

          • by compro01 (777531) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @03:24AM (#29709529)

            If the vaccination works, you won't get sick, no matter what the rest of the world does.

            Incorrect. With a sufficient number of vaccinated individuals in a population, an effect call heard immunity comes into play. This protects people who cannot get the vaccine (people allergic to it, etc.) or who the vaccine does not work on.

            There has been a 4 year study done in Ontario on this with respect to seasonal flu vaccines and found favorable results.

            http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/science/july-dec08/fluvaccine_10-31.html [pbs.org]

    • by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      And school children get vaccinations all the time. I work with animals, I have to be vaccinated against certain diseases so I don't pass them on to the animals. Healthcare workers are vaccinated against a lot of thing so they don't pass it on. If I were a nurse or doctor and had to examine 60 patients a day all with a cough, I would WANT the vaccine, who cares if it's mandatory?
  • by rcolbert (1631881) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:14PM (#29706843)
    Maher's a funny guy, and I like a lot of what he stands for. However, his stances on things like medicine and nutrition are total whack-job, and that's putting it kindly. I saw the Maher interview with Frist the other night. All I can say is that if even one person is influenced to NOT take the H1N1 vaccine based on Bill's foolish, uninformed, hippie opinion on the matter, and subsequently that person gets infected and dies, then IMO Bill is culpable. All available data strongly supports the safety and effectiveness of vaccination. Not vaccinating based on superstition is grossly irresponsible.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr. Freeman (933986)
      "then IMO Bill is culpable"
      Why? If someone is stupid enough to take medical advice from a comedian/political satirist then any negative outcome of that is just natural selection. It's not like he's pretending to be a licensed doctor.
  • If you listen really carefully that noise you hear is a 1000 lawyers licking their lips.

  • I know I would feel safer reading Slashdot knowing its employees were properly vaccinated.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:27PM (#29706941) Journal
    I only know Maher from youtube clips, he is a smart and funny guy but every now and then he demonstrates he hasn't quite got the hang of the critical thinking thing and comes out with "alternative" health advise that makes me groan. I once heard him repeat the 1990's greenpeace meme that putting clorine in the water to kill bugs was a BadThing(TM), never mind that it is probably the single biggest public health improvement of the 20th century in terms of lives saved.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:28PM (#29706947)

    On construction sites: hard hat, steel-toed boots, and when appropriate, gloves and safety glasses

    At hospitals and other health-care facilities: immunization for the kinds of diseases that are likely to come through the door, especially those with the potential for arrival en masse.

    Of course it is within your rights to refuse. But no safety equipment? No, you aren't allowed on-site in the areas where the relevant hazards exist. If that precludes you working, tough.

    Seems reasonable to me. It's still a choice, even if it is a harsh one. But anyone who chose to work in health care should have realized years ago what might sometimes be necessary to do the job.

  • The most vulnerable need seasonal flu inoculations. The strategy for a pandemic is still under debate. [latimes.com]

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that when the H1N1 flu vaccine is ready, the first people to get it should be children and young adults between age 6 months and 24 years. That strategy is expected to result in 59 million swine flu cases, 139,000 deaths and cost $67 billion. But there is a better way, according to researchers from Yale and Clemson universities. Flushot If vaccine doses were first distributed to children between age 5 and 19 and to adults age 30 to 39, there would be 15 million fewer infections and 31,000 fewer deaths, write mathematician Jan Medlock and epidemiologist Alison Galvani in Friday's edition of the journal Science. Their strategy would also save $14 billion, they calculate.

  • by Punto (100573) <puntob AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:50PM (#29707533) Homepage

    next thing you know, they'll be forcing construction workers to wear hard hat and astronauts to wear space suits. It's a slippery slope people!

  • And the point is? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @09:24PM (#29708145) Journal

    I have to have a tetanus shot and have First Aid, CPR, AED certs. Those are a condition of my employment. No shots, no certs, no paycheck.

    I also have to wear steel toe boots, a hardhat, and a dayglo safety vest if I'm on a job site.

    Let's face it, if you work in a high-risk area, your employer would be negligent in *not* requiring you to take reasonable and practical precautions.

    If you don't like, the door swings both ways.

  • by golodh (893453) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @05:20AM (#29709945)
    I don't really understand the excitement about this, even if the measure comes across as a tad heavy-handed.

    First off, from a public health point of view it's perfectly reasonable to insist that *all* nurses, MDs, and hospital support staff are vaccinated against most diseases that hospitals are likely to encounter, and against *all* diseases that threaten to become a pandemic (and for which vaccines are available).

    The reason is very simple: health-care workers will get into contact with large numbers of weakened patients (old, infirm, very young, diseased, suffering from trauma etc.) and you don't want them to:

    - (a) become infected themselves (because they weren't vaccinated) and then infect scores of vulnerable patients because they are carriers

    - (b) become unavailable for work due to illness right when they are needed most.

    So, by and large and taking one thing with another, we are better off without health-care workers who don't wish to be vaccinated. This simple consideration consideration is enough to warrant *mandatory* vaccination for all health-care workers.

    The risk to at-risk individuals (and health-care workers) from the disease itself is much greater than the risk from a vaccine, so (statistically speaking) the only rational course of action is to take the vaccine.

    The only thing that I think might be done differently is to dismiss such health-care workers as refuse vaccination. But then again, what do you do with people who can't be kept in their present function?

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