Some Erlanger Employees Resist Flu Shots; Dr. Creel Says They Are Necessary To Help Prevent Deadly Flu Outbreak

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Beginning with the 2012-13 influenza season, the Erlanger Health System is requiring all employees to have the annual influenza vaccination or possess "an approved qualified exception." The new policy has some Erlanger employees, who have qualms about flu shots, starting a petition drive.

Erlanger spokesperson Pat Charles said, "Erlanger joins a long list of leading health care systems across the country, including Johns Hopkins Hospital, making employee vaccinations mandatory in order to better protect vulnerable patients from the potentially deadly flu virus."

She said Dr. James Creel, Erlanger’s chief medical officer, is a strong proponent of mandatory vaccinations for hospital employees.

He said, “As the leading and largest healthcare provider in this region, Erlanger is ethically obligated to take every precaution to prevent the spread of influenza and to keep our patients, co-workers and others safe from acquiring the flu virus in a healthcare setting. People come to us with the expectation of getting well and we should give them that assurance,” he stated.

There are 173 signatures thus far on an online petition "Stop the Flu Shot Mandate for Erlanger Employees."

Beth Jolley, who is leading the petition drive, said, "This year, Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, TN, is imposing an influenza vaccine mandate on all of its employees as a condition of employment (in other words, if you don't receive a flu shot, you will be terminated). There are many employees who have personal convictions for not wanting to receive the flu vaccine but are not allowed to opt out unless they have a 'valid medical reason'. Whether or not you get a flu shot or believe they are beneficial, PLEASE sign this petition if you believe Erlanger employees should have the right to decide if getting a flu shot is in the best interests of their own personal well-being. THANK YOU!!!"

She wrote this letter:

Erlanger Health System Infection Control Director,

I am writing to you out of concern for Erlanger's new mandate that all of its employees receive the influenza vaccination as a condition of employment. I realize this is a controversial issue, but for some employees that I have talked to, there is a real fear of taking vaccines due to the abundance of information available regarding their potential risks. I believe that vaccines Erlanger feels are important should be offered, but not forced upon their employees. I have asked others who believe this is a personal decision that should be decided by the individual healthcare worker to sign this petition. My research has led me to discover that imposing such a mandate is legal in the state of Tennessee. However, just because something is legal, doesn't necessarily mean it's the right thing to do.

Below are some of the reasons one may not want to receive the flu shot and should be able to opt out for philosophical/personal objections if they so choose:

1) Dr. J. Anthony Morris (former Chief Vaccine Control Officer at the FDA) states: "There is no evidence that any influenza vaccine thus far developed is effective in preventing or mitigating any attack of influenza. The producers of these vaccines know that they are worthless, but they go on selling them anyway."

 2) Direct from the 2012-2013 FDA website's FLUVIRIN® Formula information page: "FLUVIRIN® has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.” 

 3) FLUVIRIN® contains two and half times the formaldehyde (embalming fluid and a known carcinogen according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services) as the level listed as "an immediate danger to life and health" by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 

 4) Flu shots contain thimerosal (49% mercury, a toxic chemical, by volume) as a preservative, in the amount of 25 micrograms. This is 250 times the EPA's safety limit of exposure

 5) Erlanger employees are responsible people who will opt to wear a mask should they exhibit any flu symptoms or will stay home from work when necessary.

 6) "The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a strong supporter of appropriate education, ready access and signed declination statements for HCP vaccinations... Influenza vaccination exemptions should be allowed for HCP with valid medical contraindications to vaccinations, or religious and/or personal objections.” 

 ? OSHA: "Every year there are numerous circulating strains of influenza that are not included in the vaccine. In years where the antigenic match is good, the vaccine only provides protection against the 3 strains in the formulation. In years when the antigenic match is poor, the vaccine may provide no protection at all. The limits of current influenza vaccine technology are especially problematic in the context of a mandatory influenza vaccination program that results in job loss. Lastly, reliance on a mandatory influenza vaccination policy may provide healthcare workers, health care facility management and patients with an unwarranted sense of security and result in poor adherence to other infection control practices that prevent all types of infections, not just influenza. Influenza vaccination has always been just one part of a comprehensive multi-layered infection control program."

“The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization of physicians in all specialties founded in 1943 to preserve the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship, objects strenuously to any coercion of healthcare personnel to receive influenza immunization.” The AAPS further states, “It is a fundamental human right not to be subjected to medical interventions without fully informed consent.” The National Vaccine Information Center states, "It is unfair, irresponsible and unethical for employers to force health care workers to choose between their health, their deeply held spiritual or
conscientious beliefs or their job."

If not this year, it is my sincere hope that Erlanger will reconsider imposing vaccination mandates on its employees in the future. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Beth Jolley, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Erlanger employee for five and a half years

Sources:

  1. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion9133.page
  2. Wrangham,Theresa, NVIC Executive Director. "Labor Unions Oppose Mandatory Flu Shots as AMA Cherry-Picks Ethics to Endorse Vaccine Mandates"
  3. Alan Phillips, J.D. "Vaccine philosophical exemptions: A moral and ethical imperative" http://www.naturalnews.com/031389_vaccines_philosophical_exemptions.html
  4. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/ucm123694.pdf
  5. Mercola. "Tell Your Doctor: If You Don't Show Me This, You're Breaking the Law" http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/25/defending-vaccine-exemptions.aspx
  6. Gucciardi, Anthony. "Flu Shots Contain More than 250 times the EPA's Safety Limit for Mercury".

Ms. Charles said, "The reasons for mandatory vaccinations for hospitals employees are many: 

1.) Influenza is the number one cause of vaccine preventable death in the U.S. Those at the greatest risk of dying from the flu are young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

2.) The influenza virus can be easily spread before a hospital employee is aware they are ill. One infected employee in contact with a vulnerable patient can cause harm and even death. One in four healthcare workers show evidence of having the flu each year, and 70% continue to work despite having flu symptoms.

3.) As the region’s only trauma center, Erlanger is where other hospitals send their toughest and sickest patients. Erlanger treats over a quarter million area residents every year, including the most vulnerable populations.

4.) Influenza vaccine is safe and remains the single most effective preventive measure against influenza. As other leading healthcare providers have learned, requiring masks for those wishing to opt out of vaccinations presented numerous challenges and infectious disease specialists agree that the costs far outweighed the benefits. The flu virus can be spread by touching contaminated objects (eg. keyboards, phones, elevator buttons, door knobs), as well as from coughing and sneezing.

5.) Starting in 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require acute care hospitals to submit influenza vaccination rates for their workers as part of its pay-for-reporting Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program. Tracking vaccination coverage among health care personnel will be a leading bench mark of patient safety, and a measure used to mark progress in reaching key targets. These figures will be publicly reported next July.

6.) High vaccination rates among hospital and nursing home workers has been demonstrated to dramatically reduce the incidence of flu – and flu-related deaths – among patients.

7.) Erlanger has had a longstanding policy of requiring vaccinations for mumps, measles and chicken pox, as with most hospitals nationwide.

In support of the mandate, Dr. Creel also noted that part of a healthcare worker’s code of ethics is that the patient comes first. “It is our ethical and professional responsibility to our patients to be protected by vaccinations,” he stressed. “It’s about doing the right thing for the patient.”

“Erlanger treats thousands of premature babies, high-risk pregnant women, victims of life-threatening trauma and disease, and highly vulnerable patients, and should take every precaution to guard against causing them harm by exposing them to the flu virus,” Dr. Creel said. “As healthcare providers it is our obligation to put the safety of our patients first and foremost.”

According to Dr. Creel, there is a narrow band of individuals with documented medical issues related to the flu vaccine. “One in a million may be at risk for Guillian Barre and those with documented evidence can apply for a waiver from mandatory vaccination,” he said.

Ms. Charles said, "Erlanger’s policy does allow exemptions, including those with documented history of Guillian Barre Syndrome or certain documented allergic reactions.

"For employees concerned about mercury, preservative free vaccine will be provided upon request. Flu mist is also available for those with an aversion to needles. "


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