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Medicine Science

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

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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  • Re:Captain Obvious (Score:1, Interesting)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:10PM (#29706825) Journal

    If everyone had the flu shot, there would be no more flu.

    If more people have the flu shot, there will be less flu than there is now.

    Absolutely not true. Try some prevention for a change. Get people to wash their hands, stop picking their nose, and stay at home when they're sick. Don't share mice, keyboards, phones. Stop with the "pair programming" where you're breathing down each others' backs. The flu shot is a crap-shoot in terms of effectiveness, and stats show that this latest virus is no more fatal than the average.

    For example, of the 151 cases in Mexico when it first started, upon re-examination, only 6 were swine flu.

    This tendancy to report ANYTHING as "possibly H1N1 - PANIC!!!" is stupid. I've never had a flu shot, and never will. And if you've had one, keep away from me - you're more, not less, likely to have a compromised immune system in the long run if you get annual flu shots.

  • Re:Captain Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:23PM (#29706915)

    If the influenza pandemic will kill off Extreme Programming, now that's something I can get behind.

  • Re:First Flu? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:37PM (#29706997) Homepage
    There's a difference between having a weak immune system and being allergic to a vaccine. For example, I've never had Whooping Cough (Pertussis), but if you give me the Pertussis vaccine I'll get extremely sick or die.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:43PM (#29707043) Journal

    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, but not exactly the same: []

    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?

    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.

    Just about all the improvements in public health over the past few centuries has been from an understanding of disease spread, and modern nutrition. Most people can and will like out the overwhelming majority of their lives without requiring any form of medical assistance. Being cognizant of the spread of the virus has a much higher success rate in preventing infection than does immunization.

  • by sonnejw0 ( 1114901 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:43PM (#29707045)
    What do medical qualifications have to do with the fact that the seasonal flu vaccine is produced according to a prediction about epitopes that may or may not be present on the newly mutated form of the virus? A flu shot does not mean you won't get the flu, it means your body will react to certain antigens it encounters due to previous exposure. That's no guarantee that the flu virus will mutate as predicted. These predictions are made a year in advance. Try predicting the weather a year in advance, maybe no one would get rained on?
  • Re:Captain Obvious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gijoel ( 628142 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:52PM (#29707099)
    So you're planning on living in a bubble? No? Living in your casino's hotel room with Kleenex boxes on your feet? No? then just how do you plan on avoiding the flu?

    In an ideal world your advice would work, but we don't live in an ideal world. People forget to wash their hands, or don't do it properly. They pick their noses cause it's fun. They'll paw your keyboard and mice because they just want to check their facebook and don't feel like tromping five feet to their own machine.

    Stop pair programming? Huh, yeah sure you're PHB isn't going to tell you to man up and get on with it, is he now? Some magazine told him that it would increase productivity. If it's the choice between your sniffles and productivity, well you're gonna be sneezing a lot.

    Keep sick people at home. That's a fantastic idea. You absolutely have my 150% unqualified support. Unfortunately sick people are still going to show up for work. It could be because they don't get sick leave. Or they don't think their flu is that bad. Or they've blown all their sick leave on guild raids. Or they're suffering under some messed up Calvinist work ethic that would drag their corpse into work if they could figure out some way of getting their dead limbs to work.

    As for the rest of your anti-vac rant; where's your f@$#ing evidence? I'm sick of anti-vac propaganda that pulls suspicions and hysteria from its' arse and expects me to swallow it without thinking.

    I'll be sticking to my annual flu shots thank you very much. And you can keep your vunerable immune system in your damn biohazard suit.
  • Re:First Flu? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plover ( 150551 ) * on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:54PM (#29707117) Homepage Journal

    It's not just hospital workers (although that's what TFA is about.) Plenty of people are required to get a flu shot that you wouldn't expect need it.

    The one that surprised me are local refinery workers. There is one refinery in our region that produces virtually all of the petroleum based fuel consumed locally. If the flu were to incapacitate 50% of the employees, the refinery would have to shut down. These are trained people needed to produce a critical product, and the refinery wouldn't have the time to train temps to take over for them. Pipelines don't exist to bring in refined products from elsewhere, and the rest of the nation's refining capacity would be strained to meet the demand.

    Refinery workers are exposed to a lot of things you probably wouldn't want to be exposed to, but viruses aren't commonly among them. It'd probably be a great place to work if you wanted to avoid contact with other people.

  • Re:Captain Obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:59PM (#29707149) Journal

    Read what you wrote - "They prime your own immune system to start building up the immunities on its own." Unfortunately, antibodies aren't all that discrete. For example, the same antibody reaction that's been implicated in type one (juvenile) diabetes, where cows milk ends up leaking into the infants' bloodstream and provoking an antibody reaction; later on in life, the same antibodies start destroying the isles of langrahen; once enough are gone, no more insulin production [ttp].

    Repeatedly injecting foreign substances to provoke immune responses has also been implicated in rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases later in life.

    And no, doctors aren't necessarily up on the latest and greatest. Look how many decades they told people with peptic ulcers to see a shrink to learn to handle stress. The flat-out refused to believe that ulcers were caused by an infection. Ditto with certain forms of cancer and viruses. Heck, they thought they could "cure" gays and lesbians for over a century. Some even wanted to "cure" the "disease" of being left-handed up until a decade ago.

    Even now, some doctors are saying thatyou should pick your nose and eat it [], despite the fact that the boogers are there FOR YOUR PROTECTION, and picking your nose short-circuits that process, damages tissue (allowing direct access to the blood stream), and helps spread contaminants (stop wiping your snot all over the place - it's like a culture medium for bacteria).

    In other words, doctors can also fall victim to simplistic logical fallacies. Or are you going to start picking your nose and chewing it because some doctor mistakenly thinks it's the right thing to do?

  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @08:08PM (#29707229) Homepage Journal

    Oh noes, the troll mods are all over this discussion... just repeating this because it's true:

    Millions die from the flu every year. Why the big panic for a flu that is no worse than average? Money!!!

    Case. Fucking. Closed.

  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @09:29PM (#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.

  • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @10:41PM (#29708235)
    Ashland, Oregon, is a small town full of nutjobs near where I live. It's a college town, and I recently read that nearly 30% of the town has taken the religious exemption from vaccinating their kids. (Trust me, it's not because they're fundamentalist christians. It's because they're crystal-licking new age whacks. Probably a very high average level of education, just not sanity.)

    30%. That's crazy, and kids will end up dying from whooping cough because of it. I have a libertarian worldview, and don't like the idea of the government mandating vaccinations. But on the other hand, when people are skipping frigging POLIO shots because of their DEMONSTRABLY WRONG beliefs, they are putting entire communities at risk. I'm torn. Now, about the H1N1 vaccine, I'm not; it should be voluntary, and I'm voluntarily not getting it, nor are my kids. The risk is overblown, and getting the disease would only be a mild inconvenience, same as any flu.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @11:10PM (#29708339) Journal
    >p> You quoted some real bullshit there.

    is is part of the reason, I think, why the health officials are so worried about H1N1: we have no resistance to it

    People born prior to 1957 are, to a large extent, immune. They were exposed to similar live viruses that provoked stronger immune responses than the current H1N1 virus itself causes. That's why we already know, and we're seeing in the stats, that older people who are otherwise healthy aren't so much at risk - they "got theirs" already and don't need a flu shot.

    So your "money quote" isn't worth 2 cents. How good can the rest of the article be, if it ignores the known facts wrt age and infection rates? Not good enough to bother reading any further, since they willfully ignore the truth when it doesn't fit their agenda.

    Also, since they're doing this WAY too fast, I'd be more worried about vaccine-induced mutations, like the polio now going around in Nigeria that the WHO admits is from a vaccine that mutated [].

    I've never had a flu vaccine, and never will. I've had the flu once, and that was because I was stupid enough to keep working around people who had it, and did way too many hours and not enough sleep. I won't make that mistake again, but even including that one time, my success rate in avoiding infection is over 98%, without any vaccine, so I'm not in the least worried.

    And my kids are doing the same. In fact, I don't know anyone (even people in the health-care field) who are going to get vaccinated. We'll stick to proper hygiene, eating and sleeping properly, and telling people who ARE infected to GTFO.

  • Re:First Flu? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @11:25PM (#29708401) Journal

    Actually, the cafeteria is not the same food establishment that prepared meals for patients. They are generally close together but separate with separate staffing because the food for the patients need to meet strict dietary requirements where cafeteria food doesn't. Most hospital cafeterias are not large enough to feed all the patients in the hospital.

    As for radiology, well, I already said the janitors are wearing sanitary protections and using disinfectants. They also do not go in while the patients are there. It's called privacy and there are some HIPPA concerns too. A hospital is not like your grade school.

    As for the hallways, in the areas I mentioned, they are controlled and access is limited for the most part. This is to control drug seekers and thieves as well as someone wanting to interfere with diagnostic results for insurance fraud or something.

    I've worked in a hospital too. In fact, I actually worked in 5 different hospitals owned by the same parent company. We all had to use the service elevators which was controlled access by key card, there were service entrances we were required to enter and exit from, and for the most part, I wouldn't ever see any patients at all. There was two notable exceptions where a guy who was on the crazy floor got permission to smoke and the order lost control of him on the way back up. He was hiding in an access closet. The other time was when a patient learned he was being charged with something by the cops, managed to escape monitoring and wondered through the building with a key card he took from an administrative assistant looking for an exit that wasn't monitored. There are provisions in place for both of those scenarios and it isn't likely that it would happen again unless hospitals have changed somewhat in the last 5 years or so.

    Of course my experience is within one chain of hospitals, it doesn't mean all of them are like that but I'm not sure why they wouldn't be. Maintenance and IT simple are not around patients or there is no need for them to be though.

  • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Sunday October 11, 2009 @01:06AM (#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.

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @01:40AM (#29709001) Journal

    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 actually want an opportunity to edify yourself:

    Do flu shots for the elderly save lives? Just washing hands works better, says study. [] [] []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 11, 2009 @04:11AM (#29709501)

    If you're in the military, they vaccinate you against shit I've never even heard of.

    The list of vaccinations against includes: Adenovirus, Influenza, Measles, Meningococcal, Mumps, Polio, Rubella, Tetanus-diptheria, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Japanese B Encephalitis, Cholera, Rabies, Varicella, Antrhrax, Small Pox.

    I've heard of all of these except JE vaccine, and Varicella. There's probably others that weren't listed, but I wouldn't be surprised if people referred to them by brand name or abbreviations. That'd be confusing.

    All the ones I listed came from: []

  • Not Same Severity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @06:01AM (#29709855) Journal

    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 pox. The rate of complications from the vaccine is comparable to the rate of complications from the disease, the WHO recommends it mainly as an economic measure (stops parents missing work to look after sick kids) and since the vaccine wears off you have to have booster shots or risk getting shingles as an adult which is a serious disease.

    Swine flu seems to be between the two. The disease can sometimes be serious but the vaccine has had no large scale testing. Hence, since I'm not an "at risk" category I'm waiting this one out at least until a while after the mass vaccination has started to see if there are an complications from the vaccine. Once the guinea pigs have shown it is safe I'll get my shot then.

  • 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.

  • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @06:20AM (#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?

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Sunday October 11, 2009 @06:31AM (#29709991) Homepage Journal

    So, yeah, we're getting flu shots and so are the ambulance and hospital people. If you're in the military, they vaccinate you against shit I've never even heard of.

    If you're in the military, you waive your right to even know what they're injecting you with. NO THANKS. I am not a number, I am getting the fuck out of here.

  • Re:First Flu? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Macgrrl ( 762836 ) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @08:23PM (#29714419)

    I currently work for an electricity transmission and distribution company. The company policy regarding swine flu is to track anyone who has been exposed because their acquiried immunity may be critical in keeping services operating in the event of the second wave of infections. We have documented procedures based on keeping operator shifts separate to minimise cross infections between teams of operators in key positions.

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.