Open Letter to Nurses Refusing the H1N1 Vaccine [With Multiple Updates]

Dear Colleagues and Nurses

I’ve recently read that some of you are refusing to be vaccinated for the H1N1 virus. To be honest, I am a more than a little mystified by your refusal.

Some of you object to the supposed “dangers” the H1N1  vaccine poses. But being highly educated health care professionals, you are surely aware that the vaccine is produced in exactly the same way and contains exactly the same non-active ingredients as every influenza vaccine for time out of mind. And until you produce a peer-reviewed article  — and the viral email from your Auntie Phyllis doesn’t count, nor does what you heard on the radio, nor does what your best friend told you in the break room — that shows more than a trivial risk, i.e. greater than being struck by lightning or winning the lottery, you really are acting out of emotion, not evidence and logic.

Others object to being coerced into accepting a medical treatment against your will. I am actually sympathetic to this argument. Being compelled against your will is indeed dubious ethically. But dear colleagues, we sold ourselves on this point years ago. We happily accept Td vaccines and Hep B vaccines and all the rest as conditions of employment. We annually are injected with minuscule amounts of parts of the tubercle bacillus to screen for TB.  And other nurses in some places willingly and cheerfully submit to compulsory random drug testing — which, if you haven’t noticed, is a medical procedure, as well as being a gross invasion of privacy. No problem with any of this, we said, as we gave our little bottles of pee and held out our arms. To suddenly start complaining about being “forced” to cooperate in a medical procedure strikes me as being more than a little disingenuous and frankly, childish.

Finally, I won’t tell you to get the vaccine, because it’s professional, or that the hospital is making you anyway, or because it’s the right thing to do, or because you’re saving yourself the misery of having the flu for a week or two, though these are all more or less valid reasons. However, getting the shot will prevent you from being a complete tool when you pass the virus to someone compromised — maybe even one of your colleagues, a patient or even, God forbid, a loved one —  and end up killing them. I think this argument is nearly irrefutable.

So in summary: don’t be a tool. Get the shot.

Collegially yours


[UPDATE #1: (15/10/09) An interesting discussion here — be sure to check out the comments. I’m a bit embarrassed for our profession when (I think) otherwise sane nurses are jumping on the H1N1 hysteria train. Any wonder why some people don’t take seriously as professionals?]

[UPDATE #2: (16/10/09) Another point of view. I get the ambiguity, but I don’t get its relevance in the larger picture — and I still don’t understand the whinging about “they’re threatening our rights and autonomy” or some such tripe. That train left left the station years ago — the first time you got the Two Step Mantoux, or submitted to a mandatory drug screen.]

[UPDATE #3: (16/10/09) Via Young and Restless Nurse (who has posts on this subject here and here) a total debunking on the mythology and hysteria surrounding H1NI and vaccinations.]

[Update #4: (18/10/09) Nurse Me has a contrary PoV. . . not getting vaccinated, no way, no how.  I don’t think I quite agree with his reasoning, which seems to boil down to a) having an immune system that attacks stray cats and squirrels, and b) cleaning everything in sight with Virox.  But he’s a little less strident than me, so maybe he has good karma. And points out, and this can’t be repeated enough, washing your hands frequently will do wonders.]


[Courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Health]


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  1. #1 by NurseMe on Saturday 17 October 2009 - 1940

    Check it out. It’s lengthy but well worth the read.

    • #2 by torontoemerg on Sunday 18 October 2009 - 0837

      Thanks — read it last night in an eerily quiet Resus room. But since I’ve gotten some sort of URTI, not alot is making sense to me at the moment. . .


  2. #3 by concerned on Wednesday 04 November 2009 - 1218

    I personally thank them for not takeing part.

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