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Medicine Science

Indiana Nurses Fired After Refusing Flu Shots On Religious Grounds 851

Hugh Pickens writes writes "ABC News reports that Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital has fired eight employees after they refused mandatory flu shots, stirring up controversy over which should come first: employee rights or patient safety. The fired nurses include Joyce Gingerich and Sue Schrock who filed appeals on religious grounds. 'I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination, but it's also the whole matter of the right to choose what I put in my body...' adding that she has not had a flu vaccine for 30 years as a result of a choice she made because of her Christian faith. Over the last several years, hospitals have been moving toward mandatory vaccinations because many only have 60 percent vaccination rates says Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Schaffner adds that nurses in particular tend to be the most reluctant to get vaccinated among health care workers, 'There seems to be a persistent myth that you can get flu from a flu vaccine among nurses,' says Schaffner. 'They subject themselves to more influenza by not being immunized, and they certainly do not participate in putting patient safety first.' But Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, says the scientific case for flu vaccine mandates is very weak and that there is no evidence showing that vaccinated workers are less likely to transmit virus. 'The scientific and religious concerns are in a sense backward,' says Orient. 'Advocates of the mandate are full of evangelical zeal and are quick to portray skeptics as wicked and selfish. It's like a secular religion, based on faith in vaccine efficacy and safety.'"
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Indiana Nurses Fired After Refusing Flu Shots On Religious Grounds

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  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:19AM (#42517119) Homepage Journal

    Is Dr. Orient wrong? Is there evidence that immunized workers are less likely to transmit the virus.

    I'm less interested in arguing the point and more interested in getting some information - which the link on that assertion does not do. It just goes to another story about this.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:26AM (#42517191) Journal

    I am not an epidemiologist; but it is worth noting that the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons [] is sort of a John Birch version of the American Medical Association, with some... intriguingly contrarian... theories on a variety of matters.

    Whether they are, in fact, correct in this case, and 'herd immunity' doesn't work as expected for some reason with flu vaccines, is a somewhat different question; but I'd treat their pronouncements on matters medical with only slightly less skepticism than Discovery Institute work on evolutionary biology...

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:30AM (#42517223) Homepage Journal

    I noticed that too - but at the end of it all the bottom line to me is, "What do the facts support?"

    The op's response is just what the Dr. describes and if that response is based on her being wrong - then I think it is justified. But it ought to be pretty easy to point out if that is the case.

    If no one actually knows for sure -- then I find being so self-righteous about it to be a bit problematic.

    I get a flu shot every year. I am really glad vaccinations are available and my kids have had all theirs. But this specific ramification of being vaccinated or not I don't know much about.

  • by bfandreas ( 603438 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:35AM (#42517261)
    Back in my university days I met a lot of medical students that did hold esoteric beliefs that defied sense and reason. Without any scientific backing. I'm not talking religion but physically unsound things. One had ampules of water duct taped to her dorm walls to counter the earths magnetic field which caused her sleeplessness. There was of course also the Jesus squad. And homeopathy. And other assorted nonesense
    Funnily I never met such nut jobs in the physics and maths and CS faculties. Just a couple of delicious yet socially awkward nerdlings. Including the girls.

    IMHO it is high time to not honor the religious feelings of other people. They need to grow a pair. Ovaries/testies, whichever they prefer.
  • by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:46AM (#42517379)

    Yes, but that is not what the blurb is stating - they are arguring about patient safty. A Flu vaccine helps you build up an immunity to the virus - in other words, if you are exposed to it, you are less likely to get sick, and if you do, the symptoms are not as bad. Getting a flu vaccine does NOT mean that you will not carry the virus. As such, firing on the grounds that they fired these workers on is not based on science, and as such, there is no grounds for termination. Whether the workers refused the vaccine based on religious grounds or not is moot.

    Now, if they said the workers were fired becasue the shots were mandnitory to cut down on worker sick time, that would be different, at which point it becomes a question of if an employer has the right to pass mandates that violates workers religious beliefs. However, as these workers are already in the medical field, it's hard for me to believe that they can seriously claim refusing vacinations based on religious beliefs.

  • by bfandreas ( 603438 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:52AM (#42517449)
    I don't get why the US press(even Slashdot) feels the needs to print opposing views no matter how disreputable and discredited in each and every article? "Fair and balanced" does not include handing a mike to the next nutter who does not agree that the sky is blue. If they were even as honest to say "AAPS(an organization with views widely disregarded in the medical community)" then they wouldn't give them creedence.
    And that's why a new name is all you need for your League of Nutjobs. Call it Concerned Parents for Sedentiary Equines. Instant Oprah invitation.

    Today a spokesman for the CPSE(Concerned Paravents for Sedentiary Equines) today has confirmed that indeed the world did end on December 21st. He has dismissed the comments of a Mayan spokesperson who said they 'simply started a new calendar as they always had planned'.
    There. Instant, reasonably sounding newsblurb. Totally asinine. Film at 11.
  • Re:Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:54AM (#42517473)
    If they had refused the flu vaccine because they're allergic to eggs, would you still approve of them being fired?
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eraesr ( 1629799 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:57AM (#42517515) Homepage
    The question of whether or not flu shots actually works seems less interesting to me. The case here is that these people refused flu shots based on religious grounds and use that argumentation to combat the decision of the hospital. They aren't having issues with flu shots not working or flu shots being a possible cause of flu itself, no, they argue that their lord and savior instructed them not to take flu shots so they won't.

    The other side of the argument is that there are medical indications that flu shots prevent patients from possible exposure to influenza. It's a safety measure taken to protect patients. For the sake of that side of the argument, lets assume that flu shots simply work in the expected way. Again, whether it actually does or not is not important as that is not being questioned by these religious people.

    So here we have a discussion of patient safety versus religious belief. I find it insulting that a nurse would expose patients (which might one day include myself) to threats they could easily avoid by taking the shot. I think it's a pretty arrogant and selfish attitude, especially for a nurse.
  • Re:Selfish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:00AM (#42517553)

    Also while I know some branches of Christianity are opposed to things like blood transfusions, I have never heard of one being against vaccines or other injections.

    Is there a denomination that actually believes this or, is she just using her religion to shield her anti-vaxx beliefs?

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:03AM (#42517587)

    Exactly, the flu shot is a strange beast to me. It very much seems like a pharmaceutical ploy to have a guaranteed subscription based source of reoccurring revenue. I've personally known people who have gotten the flu shot and still got the flu "because the shot was for a different strain". These vaccinations are not the same as the ones we get when we are children for polio, small pox and other such things. One time shots that are proven to work and have eradicated diseases. The flu shot has no hope of eradicating anything. My wife was forced to have the flu shot when she was pregnant which is even worse because she's not working in a hospital and it should be her choice whether or not to get it. You better have a boat load of evidence if you're going to force people to do something they don't want to do / or fire them for not doing it.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:06AM (#42517617)

    If they had refused the flu vaccine because they're allergic to eggs, would you still approve of them being fired?

    Yes. Hospitals are critical infrastructure, and they need to be able to keep functioning during major epidemics, like the 1918 flu pandemic []. If a nurse may not be available for that, or is a possible vector for the disease, then he or she should be terminated and seek employment at a non-critical medical facility, like maybe a cosmetic surgery clinic.

  • by YoungHack ( 36385 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:14AM (#42517733)

    Adding to your anecdote: I've had the flu shot every year without fail since 1995 and haven't had the flu since. Before that I used to have it every winter.

    Here here. I was a chronic flu sufferer, with the usual complications, particularly bouts of bronchitis most winters. I finally had a nurse practitioner inform me that I was one of those people who should get a regular flu vaccination. And I've probably had bronchitis only once in the 18 years since. Getting my daughter vaccinated made a similar improvement in her winters.

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:18AM (#42517791)

    The hosptal can fit the bill for egg free flu shots

  • Superspreaders (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:22AM (#42517839)
    There's more and more evidence that people who "Have Never Been Sick a Day in Their Lives", are in fact, typhoid Marys. They get colds and the flu just like the rest of us, but their immune systems don't go into overdrive, and they don't have symptoms, but they do spread germs to everyone else. Here's an article w.r.t. SARS []
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:22AM (#42517843)

    Is Dr. Orient wrong? Is there evidence that immunized workers are less likely to transmit the virus./p>


    Not according to the CDC. The main benefit to immunizing hospital workers against the flu is that if their is a pandemic, they will be in a position to care for the sick. It has nothing to do with the reduced transmission of the virus by hospital staff.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheABomb ( 180342 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:23AM (#42517861)

    It goes further than that. Nurses frequently work with in a field that primarily concerns itself with increasing overall health and wellness. If their religious sensibilities are upset by that, they probably do need to find a new job.

  • by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:36AM (#42518055)
    Not that my anecdotal evidence matters, but I can attest to getting the flu shot and being sick after.

    My mother's a nurse and is, or at least was, a firm believer in the flu shot. She use to make me and my older sister get them every year. She stopped forcing me when I was seven because I was always violently ill afterwards. I hadn't had a flu shot in 20 years and never had more than the occasional head cold. Then last year my wife, who is also a firm believer in the flu shot, was pregnant and asked me to get one for her and the baby's sake. I did and wasn't terribly ill, but for a few days later I was nauseated and sluggish. I got a vaccine this year anyway, but this time I was violently ill. I ended up in the hospital for two days with sever "flu like symptoms" according to the doctor, who wouldn't believe I had gotten my shot. I'm not allergic to eggs so I'm not sure why I would be so sick all of the sudden after 20 years of being pretty healthy.

    I definitely believe in the logic of vaccinating as many people as possible and that it's beneficial to everyone, but I also feel the flu shot either doesn't always work as well as some believe, or that it can make some people sick. My wife says it's a one off and I probably already had the flu this year before getting the shot, which is obviously why I got sick. I'll get it again next year and see what happens, but if I'm as sick next year as I was this year, that's the end of it for me.

    Also, not to wear out my tinfoil hat, but I'd like to know how much the pharmaceutical industry makes off the flu vaccines and possibly what kind of effect that might have on "research" into it's benefits. I tried to look it up, but only found a few (dubious) sources stating that while they make less off vaccines than other drugs, they still me astronomical amounts. If true, I kind of see that as an incentive for them to lie about the benefits, it's a huge cash cow and you wouldn't want people to all the sudden find out it's a lot of hokey.
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:46AM (#42518201)
    Not disagreeing with your main point (infact I fully agree health professionals need flu shots unless they're provably allergic to them.) just your analogy. But many firemen are in fact pyromaniacs, they love fire. Many blow things up and set them on fire on their training grounds more for fun than for training. For many people it's the attraction to fire and things burning up that make them take up the job. This makes them better firemen too, someone who burns things in their spare time has better chances of fully understanding how to control and contain fires.
  • Re:Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:54AM (#42518331)

    In my hospital, anyone that does not get vaccinated (including IT staff) they must wear a mask while in the hospital, during flu season. We had a few people reject the vaccine and have to wear the mask one year, they chose the shot the next year.

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @11:32AM (#42518849)

    Harmless my ass. I get sick every. single. year. within 24 hours of recieving the flu shot.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam