A nurse suggests mandatory flu shots for health-care workers risks being unhealthy

A nurse suggests mandatory flu shots for health-care workers risks being unhealthy

Missing the point over vaccination


Re: Too many immunized against knowledge, Sept. 6.


Re: Too many immunized against knowledge, Sept. 6.

I would like to address a few of the assumptions made in the opinion column by Chris Foulds.

I have been a health-care worker for 12 years, mainly working the ER and have a few opinions on the issue of mandatory immunizations for health-care workers.

Let me start by saying: I am not against immunizations in general and am well aware that you cannot get the flu from the influenza vaccine.

That’s not to say there’s no risk to getting a vaccination, as the writer suggests. There are risks to taking any medication – even those deemed ‘safe,’ such as Advil and Tylenol, are not without risks and side effects.

Most vaccinations have been around long enough to be considered ‘safe’ for a general population, but the risk of adverse reaction to the individual are still real. In the recent past, vaccinations have been changed because components in them – such as preservatives like thimerosal – have been determined to be unsafe.

This is not to say the risks of vaccination outweigh the potential benefits, but it does give each individual the obligation to determine what is best for themselves.

I can tell you the only times I did not get vaccinated for flu season were the years they implemented mandatory immunization and threatened to send us home if we did not get our flu shot and an outbreak ensued. Perhaps it was immature but I thought, ‘Fine, send me home, I don’t want to be here if there is an outbreak anyway, and you can’t tell me what I have to put in my body.’

As a nurse, I cannot treat a patient without consent unless they are committed under the Mental Health Act. This means, if they refuse a treatment – even if it could potentially save their life – I must support them in their choice. Why is it any different for health-care workers?

Yes, we work with immunocompromised people, but should be following ‘universal precautions.’ This means the stethoscope the columnist noticed hanging off the back of that chair should have been scrubbed with alcohol. I’m not saying it was; it probably wasn’t, which makes me think more emphasis should be placed on basic procedures like hand washing and other prevention than on forcing medical staff to be immunized.

It would also be prudent to note the money he used to pay for his lunch would probably turn out a similar display on a petri dish as that unsterilized stethoscope.

Even if all health-care workers are vaccinated, it doesn’t mean they can’t transmit the flu virus. There is also no guarantee the strains put in the flu shot are going to be the ones that are prevalent. So I don’t think it’s fair to say vaccinations are ‘perfectly safe’ and ‘completely effective.’

I care a great deal about the health of my patients, and this is why I keep doing my job. I also need to care for my own health, and I feel I should be able to make an informed decision when it comes to vaccination.

Foulds’ last statement suggests that while health-care workers should have the right to refuse vaccination, employers should have the right to not employ us if we choose not to be vaccinated.

If I knew I was going to lose work based on my decision to not put a foreign substance in my body, I may not have signed up for nursing and paid for over four years of schooling to do a job I love. It is all well to implement a policy like this, but it should be done at the student level before people commit to a career.

Danielle Moon, Surrey