It’s been freezing at night here in southern Oregon and there was a carpet of white frost on the grass this morning when I woke the kids up for school.
Winter is on its way.
As is the flu.
Yet according to an article published November 3, 2011 on MedPage Today, a federal advisory committee on vaccines is recommending that hospitals consider mandating the flu vaccine for their employees.
Because the majority of healthcare workers ignore public health recommendations to get the flu vaccine and forego the flu shot.
Only about 40 percent of healthcare workers get the shot. About sixty percent do not.
During the media blitz about the dangers of the H1N1 virus, that number rose a bit, with 62 percent of healthcare workers getting a shot.
So the government’s National Vaccine Advisory Committee is considering forcing healthcare workers to submit to a shot they do not want.
Why would the majority of people in the business of keeping others healthy rejet the flu shot?
Could it be because:
1) The flu shot has very little proven efficacy.
In one new meta-analysis, the most popular form of the flu shot—the trivalent inactivated vaccine—had an efficacy rate of 59 percent in people ages 18 – 64. That means that 41 percent of the people who get that shot will also get the flu. Even worse, there was no usable data for children ages 2 – 17 or people over 64.
2) Healthcare workers understand that there are more effective ways to boost your immune system than the flu vaccine.
Why is it that several people with the same vaccine status can get exposed to the same virus but only some of those people will get sick?
Eating wholesome foods, getting enough sleep, washing your hands thoroughly, exercising, reducing your stress levels, having good intimate relationships, and having been breastfed as a baby are all of tremendous importance in building your body’s resistance to disease.
3) Healthcare workers are more concerned about the vaccine’s notorious and terrible side effects than about getting the flu.
As one commenter on the MedPage article writes:
“I had a patient who was bedridden for the rest of his life at age 45 that he blames on the flu shot. He had Guillain–Barré syndrome and after 10 years in nursing facilities he also developed tardive dyskinesia from the drugs used to control this big strong man. How many hospitals that mandated the flu shot kept records of the major and minor reactions?”
4) There is no real evidence that vaccinating all hospital staff will actually reduce the number of patients with the flu.
As the MedPage article points out, “Studies that have attempted to prove healthcare worker vaccination improves patient health have mostly been performed in nursing homes, which are very different than the patient population in a hospital…”
5) Perhaps healthcare professionals don’t believe the protection afforded by the vaccine is worth the co-pay they would have to spend to get vaccinated.
Actions speak louder than words.
Maybe they don’t have time.
Maybe they can’t be bothered.
But if healthcare professionals can’t be bothered to take the time to be vaccinated, what does that say about their real feelings about the importance and efficacy of vaccines?
Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH, a pediatrician, epidemiologist, and ethicist, believes by mandating the vaccine, hospitals may be avoiding the real issue:
Why would healthcare workers choose not to be vaccinated in the first place?
Jennifer Margulis is a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Her book, The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby BEFORE Their Bottom Line, includes a detailed exhaustively referenced chapter on the current CDC childhood vaccination schedule.