By Anne Dachel
It seems the flu is the hot topic these days. There are countless news stories about how serious this year's outbreak is (something which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls "an epidemic"), additionally there is coverage about flu shot mandates for health care workers in a lot of places. The hype several weeks ago about the lack of effectiveness of the current vaccine seems to have abated.
Dec 23, 2014, St. Cloud (MN) Times: CentraCare requires flu vaccine for workers, volunteers
With a mission comes a mandate: CentraCare Health is emphasizing patient safety by requiring all its employees to get a flu vaccine or wear a mask where patients may be present.
Dec 26, 2014, KPBS TV, San Diego: San Diego Health Care Workers Required To Get Flu Shot Or Wear Mask
This flu season San Diego County health care providers have to either get a flu shot or wear a mask while working, according to an order issued by Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.
Dec 26, 2014, WHDH Boston: Some nurses could be fire for not getting flu shot
Nurses are required to get the flu shot at some hospitals and those who refuse may face termination.
It's estimated that roughly half of all Americans get the flu shot and Nurse Marek Piszczatowski says it's a good idea.
"I don't have any problem with vaccinations, I had them as a child," he said.
Jan 9, 215, Tacoma (WA) News Tribune:Flu shot a no-brainer for health care workers
Among those requiring the shot are the respected Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland and Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center, which has had a mandatory policy since 2005.
Now Tacoma's MultiCare Health System is making flu vaccinations mandatory - with a few exceptions - and has gotten pushback from the union representing about 1,500 nurses. Fortunately, the attempt to fight MultiCare's policy in court was unsuccessful. A Superior Court judge declined to issue a restraining order that would prevent MultiCare from terminating workers who refuse to be vaccinated.
The mandate for health care workers to get vaccinated against the flu is not without controversy.
Sept 25, 2014, Boston Globe: Brigham and Women's nurses sue over flu shot mandate
The Massachusetts Nurses Association sued Brigham and Women's Hospital this week, seeking to block a policy not yet in effect that would require nurses to get flu shots if they want to keep working there.
The action in Suffolk Superior Court comes as state public health officials are leaning on hospitals to improve the influenza vaccination rate among health care workers, which varied in hospitals from 62 percent to 99 percent during the most recent flu season.
. . . The Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing 3,200 nurses at the Brigham, said in its lawsuit that the hospital's mandate, which could lead to the firing of employees who refuse vaccination, violates a state regulation that explicitly bars hospitals from requiring employees to the receive vaccine if they don't want it, regardless of the reason.
Jan 7, 2015, NJ.com: N.J. hospitals mixed on imposing mandatory annual flu vaccinations for employees
A number of New Jersey hospitals, including some of the largest health systems in the state, do not require staffers who work around patients to be vaccinated against the flu, even as several major health organizations support mandatory vaccines for health care workers to lessen the chance of transmission.
Health officials and professional organizations say the flu vaccine is an essential measure to protect against transmitting the virus to vulnerable patients and colleagues. Voluntary efforts to increase vaccination rates, they say, have had limited effectiveness.
So what do you think? Should hospital workers be required to get a flu vaccination?
(The article reported 58 percent of those who responded said yes, they should have to get the vaccine.)
Jan 8, 2015, MyNorthwest.com (Seattle): Should nurses be forced to get a flu shot?
They work in health care, but should nurses be forced by their hospital employers to get a flu vaccine? Some nurses say absolutely not, which is why the Washington State Nurses Association is suing the company Multicare that operates Tacoma General Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.
. . . Selby says so far, no one has been fired, but one nurse was suspended, and they've had reports from other members who felt they had no choice but to get the vaccine because they were afraid of repercussions and losing their job.
It's not just hospital workers who are pressured to get the annual flu vaccine. Preschoolers in some places have to have it too.
TIME published an editorial endorsing mandatory flu vaccines for school children on Jan 7, 2015. The title was Why Some Experts Want Mandatory Flu Shots For School Kids, and readers were told that parents had a civic responsibility to have their preschoolers vaccinated.
'This is just part of being a good citizen and not hurting your neighbor'
How do you prevent elderly people from dying from the flu? Immunize preschoolers, infectious disease experts say.
. . . "This is just part of being a good citizen and not hurting your neighbor," says Jon C. Tilburt, a medical professor at the Mayo Clinic. "It's good for your neighbor's kids and it's good for grandma."
TIME included a mention of "the attention-grabbing anti-vaccination movement" as a problem for "the cause of mandatory vaccines," and at the bottom of the story was the 2 minute video showing a weary-looking Jeffrey Kluger, TIME's science editor, slamming Andrew Wakefield and the "anti-vaccine crowd," while declaring "for the billionth time, vaccines are safe, effective and vitally important." (I've seen this video lately on several stories--whenever TIME talks about anything to do with vaccines.)
There was a lot of press coverage of the mandate for NYC preschoolers to get the flu vaccine. (Notice that it only applies to preschoolers in New York City, not the rest of the state.) Readers are told that noncompliance could result in fines or exclusion, as determined by the individual school.
Jan 2, 2015, New York Times: New York City Requiring Flu Shots for Preschoolers
New York City preschoolers will be heading back to class next week with memories of new holiday toys, vacation adventures, and, health officials hope, a flu shot.
In fact, because of a new city requirement, young children can, for the first time in the city's history, be excluded from class if they have not received a flu vaccination.
The new rule, which applies to some 150,000 children in city-licensed day care centers and preschools, was quietly adopted by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the waning days of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration. This is the first flu season during which it applies. New York City joins New Jersey and Connecticut in implementing a mandatory flu vaccine for children between 6 months and 5 years of age. . . .
Beginning in 2016, the city will charge fines ranging from $200 to $2,000 to schools whose students do not follow the rule. (This year is a grace period during which the city will check vaccination records but not penalize schools.) The city, however, cannot force principals or school directors to exclude children who do not comply, because the flu vaccine is not mandated by the state. Instead, it will be up to each school to determine whether to exclude unvaccinated children, or alternatively, incur the fines.
The Times acknowledged that there are possible risks with the flu shot.
On rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. A report from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program states that there have been 1,633 claims of injury and 81 claims of death attributed to flu vaccines in all age groups since 2005, of which 924 have been compensated. But federal officials stress that such settlements are not an admission that the vaccine caused the injury.
Jan 7, 2015, Education Week: Appeals Court Upholds N.Y. School Vaccination Requirements
A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a federal constitutional challenge to New York state's school vaccination law, saying it is well-settled that requiring vaccinations to attend school is within the "police power" of the states.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, also unanimously upheld a state regulation that permits officials to temporarily exclude from school students who have valid medical or religious exemptions from vaccination when there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.
The New York Post did publish a story showing that not everyone is onboard with this mandate, Take your mandatory flu shot and shove it! http://nypost.com/2013/12/15/take-your-mandatory-flu-shot-and-shove-it/ by Mary Kay Linge on December 15, 2014.
Linge talked about effectiveness, risks and parental rights.
In any given year, the CDC admits, the flu vaccine may be totally ineffective against the flu. That's because scientists have to guess which strains of the flu virus will be going around each year. Some years, they guess wrong. . . .
And the side effects of the flu vaccine are very real. The manufacturers' warning labels give a long list of potential risks - everything from fever and headache to convulsions, blood disorders and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Last flu season, at least five young children died as a direct result of the flu vaccine, according to the federal database that tracked adverse reactions during the 2012-13 flu season.
I decided to ask Toni Bark, MD about what's going on in New York City. She's very outspoken about the flu vaccine and the growing number of Americans being mandated to get this shot.
(See Age of Autism story, Dr. Toni Bark & Flu Shot Efficacy, Logic, Jan 5, 2015.)
Here is a Dr. Bark Skype update-- New York City Preschoolers and the Flu Shot Requirement.
"I predicted that preschools would be next. . . . It is odd that it's just the city and not the state. . . . I read that the goal was to catch up to where New Jersey and Connecticut are with mandating annual flu shots. . . .
"New Jersey was the first state to do this. . . What have they gained? . . .Well in fact they've gained nothing. . . . I follow which states are among the highest rates of flu for the flu season, and New Jersey, every year, is among the highest, and Connecticut as well. . . . There's been nothing to show for this every expensive endeavor. . . .
"We know from the Cochran Studies that children under the age of six don't respond very well to the flu shot anyway. So then you have to resort to the live flu mist, which is a nasal live viral vaccine. That child is now shedding flu viruses, A and B, for the next 10 days. Which means anyone who comes in contact with them is at risk of getting influenza because they're shedding live virus.
"It makes no sense. This one is so stupid--again. . . . So this is--again--nonsense."
Tony Lyons, father of a daughter with autism, attorney and publisher of Skyhorse Publishing in New York, had strong words about this mandate:
"I think making the flu vaccine mandatory for preschoolers, when the CDC admits it doesn't work and scientists and doctors warn of the adverse affects, should be considered a crime against humanity. History judges a society on how it treats its most vulnerable members. Given its infant mortality rate (far in excess of other industrialized nations) and the prevalence of early childhood disease, the United States is on track to go down in history as a failed experiment."
Foster mom says she's willing to lose infant over flu shot mandate
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which is on sale this Fall from Skyhorse Publishing.