A controversy over mandatory flu shots

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Americans were grateful for immunizations. I remember standing in line at my elementary school to get my oral polio vaccine, brought to us by private foundations and government-sponsored (gasp!) health clinics. No one complained. My parents’ generation remembered polio, which crippled and killed.
But times have changed. Few alive today remember the devastation of an epidemic; mistrust of big institutions, including government, has grown; and the Internet and 24/7 cable news casts have brought us more rumors and half-truths than reliable information. So some health care workers are in a tizzy because their employers are requiring them to get vaccinated against either seasonal flu, swine flu or both.

(Before any of you get hysterical, let’s be clear: Vaccines are mandatory for some health care workers, not for all individuals.  And it’s not the federal government who is ordering the vaccines. The state of New York has ordered all health care workers in front-line patient care to be vaccinated. And some private health care groups, such as MedStar, have also issued the order.)

The rationale for mandatory flu shots for health care workers seems logical enough. Said New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines:

“The rationale begins with the health-care ethic, which is: The patient’s well-being comes ahead of the personal preferences of health-care workers.”

Nevertheless, some health care workers are frightened. This suggests they don’t assess risks well. (They remind me of people who are afraid to fly but don’t mind automobile transportation. You’re much more likely to die in a car accident than in a commercial aircraft crash.) If you don’t believe in the facts of medical research, why work in health care?
I wouldn’t want a non-immunized health care worker who just treated several people with swine flu to see my baby the next day. He/she is likely contagious but wouldn’t have symptoms yet. So my baby would be exposed. If you don’t want to get a shot, go to work in another industry.

28 comments Add your comment

Say What??

September 30th, 2009
12:00 pm

It’s Bush’s fault. There, I beat you to it.

The Devil You Say

September 30th, 2009
12:01 pm

Strange, but you got one (mostly) right again. This makes two in a row. You really need to stay on the wagon! Some ultra maroons have always questioned the need for vaccines or even blood transfusions, but if health care workers can’t see the need, then they really should find something else to do – mostly because they are obviously too stupid to do such an important job.

godless heathen

September 30th, 2009
12:04 pm

I agree with Cynthia twice in one day. Scary.

Not stupid

September 30th, 2009
12:22 pm

Why would you not want to be around someone who was not vaccinated? If your precious vaccine actually works, you have NOTHING to worry about, right?

Did you know that one dose of flu vaccine from a multi dose vial contain 25 micrograms of mercury? This is a toxic dose of mercury that is injected directly into your body.

Anyone who voluntarily allows 25 mcg of mercury to be injected into their body is retarded.

godless heathen

September 30th, 2009
12:22 pm

And Luckovich’s cartoon is almost mildly critical of Obama.

Send SWAT down to Marietta St., I think someone has taken over the AJC.


September 30th, 2009
12:39 pm

I still say that there should be a law to mandate hand washing after every bowel movement.

Nanny-state logic dictates this.

Shaneneeee Faneneeeeeee

September 30th, 2009
12:44 pm

“To reform healthcare I am going to have the debates around a big table. These debates will be televised on C-SPAN so that people can see who are making the arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making the arguments on behalf of the insurance companies or the drug companies. And so, that approach I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.” – Barack Obama. ??????


September 30th, 2009
12:52 pm

There is no controvery!! For the public health reasons you outline those defined health care workers WILL BE be immunized for flu — seasonal or pandemic. If they choose to not be immunized they are terminated or moved to a position where they do not interact and care for patients!!! End of controversy!!


September 30th, 2009
1:23 pm

They really aren’t flu shots…they’re mind altering nanoprobes that make you think that Cheney is G-d, and evil is anything not Cheney. Be afraid, be very, very afraid…wear your tin foil hats at all times…


September 30th, 2009
1:25 pm

jt: Never shake hands with a man coming out of the restroom with wet hands..just sayin’


September 30th, 2009
1:33 pm

I’m with Not Stupid. Why are you worried about a “non-immunized health care worker” when you and your baby are already vaccinated?


September 30th, 2009
1:50 pm

Bicycles — no vaccine is 100% effective given a variety of host factors. In addition a front line health care worker has multiple influenza exposures — if they are not immunized, in theory they could be infected with different influenza subtypes or strains and contribute to the formation of resistant strains or the next reassortant virus….


September 30th, 2009
1:57 pm



September 30th, 2009
2:49 pm



September 30th, 2009
2:52 pm

For you mercuryphobes: FYI – it’s in the air, water & food.

Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States…

Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water.

Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans.


September 30th, 2009
2:59 pm

Juan — if your reference to freedom to choose relates to whether you chose to be immunized or not, then NO you are not free to choose if you put the public at risk, either my occupation or as a member of society (for the public good it’s called herd immunity).

George American — don’t worry, we will protect you since, based on your misinformation, you seem to not be able to protect yourself…


September 30th, 2009
3:00 pm

Sorry, should read … either BY occupation…


September 30th, 2009
3:11 pm

I can mostly agree with you again except for this really big error.

You blame the “internet and 24/7 cable news” for more “rumors and half-truths than reliable information”.
First, do you exclude CNN, MSNBC, DailyKaus (sp), Huffington and similar “supportive” cable outlets and internet sites from this accusation?
Second, traditional news outlets including radio, TV and newspapers (AJC) have provided more than sufficient rumors, quarter-truths and unreliable information in the guise of news.

Fix you own problem before you accuse another source.

joe matarotz

September 30th, 2009
3:47 pm

The polio vaccine was proven to work against polio. The success rate was extremely high.
Influenza vaccines do not have nearly as good a record against influenza. The principle of the flu vaccine is to introduce a ‘mild’ strain of flu virus into your system. Your immune system will then build up antibodies which will improve your chances of resisting the flu.
Sometimes, people get sick from the vaccine. Sometimes they get almost as sick from the vaccine as they would from the regular flu. Sometimes the antibodies they produce are not effective against the current strain of flu.
Folks, you can check these out easily for yourselves:

A flu vaccine is not a guarantee that you will not get the flu.

A flu vaccine is not a cure for the flu.

The flu is a group of strains of virus.

There is no known cure for any virus. The best we can do is take medication to relieve the symptoms until we build up sufficient antibodies to fight off the virus.

Cynthia, even if someone has been vaccinated, that does not mean they pose no danger of infection to your child. Good hygiene remains one of the most effective preventions of infection since most viruses are transmitted by contact.

godless heathen

September 30th, 2009
3:54 pm

The mercury exposure hype, whether from eating fish or vaccines is more hysteria. Most of us older folks that still have teeth have mercury fillings in them – and we are ok, for the most part.

There was an article in the paper the other day about kids getting exposure to lead in the drinking water in the schools, either from well water or lead solder pipes. Of course the point was made that there wasn’t money for the testing that was needed. But we got government agencies spending all kinds of money looking for part per trillion concentrations of mercury in rivers and streams, but we don’t have money to test water coming straight out of the pipe into the little tykes’ mouths. Misplaced priorities based on environmentalist whackos’ hysteria.

El Jefe

September 30th, 2009
3:58 pm

Let me get this straight, the health workers, having some medical knowledge have doubts about the safety of the vaccine, but New York bureaucrats, with little or no medical knowledge say it is safe.

I wonder, who would you trust?

El Jefe

September 30th, 2009
4:02 pm

Between the hand washing and the use of gloves, I would not worry about the heath care workers. It sound more like a knee jerk liberal reaction to another flu season.


September 30th, 2009
5:18 pm

If you don’t want to get a shot, go to work in another industry.

Fine, and if you represent the state and are so comfortable mandating that people put active poisons into their bodies then you won’t have any problem underwriting and assuming legal liability of $1 million dollars per person when that mandatory vaccine causes detrimental physiological effects such as autism or some other provable affliction.

Dante P

September 30th, 2009
5:54 pm

“I wouldn’t want a non-immunized health care worker who just treated several people with swine flu to see my baby the next day. He/she is likely contagious but wouldn’t have symptoms yet. So my baby would be exposed. If you don’t want to get a shot, go to work in another industry.”

The person who wrote this has no common sense. If you get the flu shot that does not mean that you are no longer able to infect someone, it just means that you are protected against it. A person that has been vaccinated can still pass the virus to others. If they don’t clean there hands and don’t take percautions to not pass it on others can still get it.

Linda N

September 30th, 2009
8:24 pm

Enter your comments here
I truly believe everyone should consider flu shot. I wonder why New York state healthcare workers were singled out ? What about new york state teachers . They work with the most vulnerable of groups. Most of the flu patients dont end up in hospitals… but they certainly attend school.


September 30th, 2009
8:24 pm

Enter your comments hereMs Tucker’s ignorance is only one of the things I find offensive about what she wrote. I don’t feel that because I am a health care worker, I give up my constitutional rights. If the vaccine is safe, why are all health care workers receiving it required to sign a waiver giving their employer and vaccine manufactures an exemption from their responsbilities should any severe illnesses arise as a result? I personally worked with someone who developed guillan barre disease in the 1990’s after taking the flu vaccine. Read up on it. It was a terrifying experience for her, as the paralysis ascended up her body. I would like Ms Tucker and her infant to receive the vaccine, so she can feel safe. I don’t want to work in another industry. That suggestion itself proves that she in unaware that for many of us, nursing is a calling.

godless heathen

September 30th, 2009
9:30 pm

It’s the employers requiring the shots, not the liberal gument. Don’t like it, do something else.


October 23rd, 2009
7:00 pm

I have been a RN for 30+ years. I remember well the vaccine of the late 1970’s that caused so many people to obtain Guillain Barre. They, at the time questioned the Thimerosal and mercery content in the injections as the cause.
Later I was standing in line to dutifully take my flu vaccine and I read the small print on my permit form, it said “this vaccine may cause Gullain Barre”. I stepped out of line and I have never taken another flu shot, nor have I had the flu other than sniffles.
I encourage you to do your own research before making a decision. Then you can be fully informed.