While I think making swine flu vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers is bad policy, since it feeds into anti-vaccine paranoia: people forced to take the vaccine will assume that they are guinea pigs and this, in turn, will lead others to think something is wrong with the vaccine.
Having said that, I’m concerned by the response of Long Island nurses unions–they apparently don’t think the vaccine is unsafe but oppose it anyway. But these reactions by nurses are more troubling (italics mine):
“This vaccine has not been clinically tested to the same degree as the regular flu vaccine,” said Tara Accavallo, a registered nurse in Stony Brook’s neonatal intensive care unit, the division that has produced a number of protesters. “If something happens to me, if I get seriously injured from this vaccine, who’s going to help me?”
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as infectious disease specialists on Long Island say the H1N1 vaccine, which is set to be released early next month, is safe and produces a powerful immune response.
The deadline to comply is Nov. 30, a date so close it leaves little time for legal maneuvers to skirt the law, but Accavallo says she’s willing to lose her job if need be.
Rob Kozik, another registered nurse in Stony Brook’s neonatal intensive care unit, said he has no problems with a seasonal vaccine but he has deep concerns about being immunized against H1N1. “I usually get vaccinated against the flu, but they are mandating an untested and unproven vaccine.
“The H1N1 vaccine already has a poor track record,” he added. “Back in 1976 there was vaccine [to protect against swine flu] that caused death and Guillain-Barre syndrome,” said Kozik, referring to a nerve-damaging disorder that some people linked to the vaccine. He said he also worries about the vaccine additive thimerosal, which is used as a preservative in some doses of the vaccine.
This veers very close to anti-vaxxer territory. It really sounds as if there are some nurses who would not get vaccinated voluntarily. Like I said, if they don’t want to, fine, even if it is irresponsible. But the state should publish a list of which hospitals are not in full compliance, so people with elective procedures can choose other facilities (of course, in some areas, this isn’t possible). If the staff isn’t committed to infection control, then I certainly wouldn’t want to be a patient in that hospital if I could avoid it.