- USA Today -
ALBANY — Several hundred health-care workers, civil libertarians and members of anti-vaccine groups on Tuesday railed against a mandate that medical professionals get seasonal and swine-flu vaccines.
But the state health commissioner said their arguments are baseless.
Nurses and other health-care workers said they shouldn't be forced to get a vaccine that they don't believe has been tested appropriately as a condition of keeping their jobs.
"There's no proof this vaccine will protect us from swine flu or protect us from spreading it to others," said Sue Field of Poughkeepsie, a registered nurse who works in a hospital maternity ward and a primary organizer of the rally.
Field, who declined to name her employer, said there are other things health-care workers can do to help prevent patients from getting sick, such as not allowing them to have visitors with contagious illnesses.
But Dr. Richard Daines, state health commissioner, disputed that, telling reporters that the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines are safe and vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu.
In an earlier blog, I posted an article from Mike Adams in which he listed the top 10 vaccine lies. One lie he mentioned was a lie of omission, that the media only talked about vaccines as a method of prevention from getting sick, when in fact there are far better natural methods of preventing yourself from getting the flu, methods they never dared tell you about. Here you see this lie out in the open: the New York State health commissioner saying the best way to keep from getting the flu is the vaccine. That's a grotesque lie.
- He criticized anti-vaccine groups for protesting the H1N1 shots.
"This isn't the time to pump air into a completely deflated argument about vaccine safety," he said.
The state Hospital Review and Planning Council unanimously approved a requirement that health-care workers in hospitals, outpatient clinics and home-care programs receive seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines by Nov. 30, unless they have medical reasons why they cannot. Legislation to apply the same standard to nursing-home workers has been proposed.
Years of voluntary vaccines for flu led to vaccination levels of between 30% and 50% of health-care workers, which is not high enough to provide herd immunity — protection to the remaining unvaccinated population, Daines said.
It's up to the institutions to decide how to comply and what actions to take for employees who do not. Health-care workers are "going to come around on this," he said.
"I know nurses and doctors too well. I've never seen them walk away from a patient problem," he said.
Historically, there is one flu outbreak season each year, with about 2,000 deaths in New York and 36,000 nationwide, Daines said. Because of H1N1, there will likely be three outbreaks this year, he said.
Other groups representing health-care workers oppose the mandatory vaccinations, although they were not connected with the rally.
The state Nurses Association encourages nurses to get immunized but doesn't think that should be a condition of employment, spokesman Mark Genovese said. Not all institutions are requiring the vaccine, he said.
The association disputed the accuracy of the rally organizers' message, Genovese said. Its members have been in discussions with state officials.
The Public Employees Federation, which represents health-care workers, wants the regulation reversed, union President Ken Brynien said in a statement. There are reports that some employees at institutions where vaccines are mandated have retired or been fired because they refuse to get it, he said.
"No other state mandates vaccination for influenza, nor has the federal government done so. New York health care workers should not be used to test an unproven policy," he said.
The Healthcare Association of New York State anticipates that the vast majority of health-care professionals who are required to get the vaccine will, said William Van Slyke, a spokesman for the group.
Outside the Capitol Tuesday, protesters held hand-made signs with sayings like, "We're not lab rats," and "No flu shot, no job?" Groups like the Autism Action Network, which said it plans to sue the state on the issue, and the Campaign for Liberty helped organize the protest.
Deborah Gerhardt, a 37-year-old registered nurse from Walworth, Wayne County, said deciding whether to get an injection should be a personal choice. Just because the FDA approved the H1N1 vaccine "doesn't mean it's safe in my book," she said.
"Where is this so-called emergency situation that is wreaking havoc?" asked Gerhardt, who works at Brighton Surgery Center and Rochester General Hospital.
"The real havoc is New York state is taking our jobs away for no reason at all," she said.
Cherryl Robbins, a patient-care technician from Staatsburg, Dutchess County, said that in troubled economic times, it is hard to understand why health-care workers are forced to choose between what they think is right for their bodies and what they do for a living. She is 22 weeks pregnant with her first child.
"Up until this year, the choice to forego the vaccine has been there for me," said Robbins, 33. "This year, at a time when I'm pregnant with my first child, and I feel more responsibility for what I put in my body than at any other point in my life, that choice has been taken away from me."
Barbara Jones of Wallkill, Ulster County, said she has never gotten a flu vaccine and has been a registered nurse since 1985. There is an implication that if health-care workers don't get the vaccine, they don't care about their patients. That couldn't be further from the truth, she said.
"I think people should have the right to get it or to opt out of it," said Jones, 47.