Influenza kills somewhere between 3,000 to 40,000 Americans annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control " from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 flu season, flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people." with an average of about 25,000 deaths per year.
So far this year, there have been 18 pediatric deaths. It's very early in the season. Last year there were 34. The year before that, 122, and the year before that, 282. That might appear to be a downward trend, but it really reflects that influenza strains are highly variable from year to year, and there is an ebb and flow of deaths.
282 child deaths is how many Newtown massacres?
figure from above link,
The fact is, every person who has influenza is a vector for others to catch it. The vaccine is not 100% effective, but it's the best thing we have to reduce epidemic impact and save lives. It's not about someone with a few aches and pains, fever and a chance to watch old movies and wear pajamas. It's about reducing the # of tragedies. All of those hundreds of children who died in the past 4 years had parents who grieved just as much as Newtown parents grieved.
It's hard to predict, butthis season looks like it could be a doozy. I hope not. Of course there are flawed predictions. It's an inexact science.
So that's the context for why this nurse pisses me off. She wants to continue working in a hospital, where she could contract influenza, and potentially infect many others before developing symptoms herself. It's not that easy to differentiate flu from bronchitis from cold, in the early stages.
Plus, it's being taken as a case for religious freedom: "
'I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination, but it’s also the whole matter of the right to choose what I put in my body..."
Sue Schrock, a hospice nurse, said she has not had a flu vaccine for 30 years as a result of a choice she made because of her Christian faith."
Alan Phillips, who represented several nurses at the hospital, says his clients had the right to refuse their flu shots under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination of employees. Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief, he said, adding that the belief flu shots are bad should suffice.
I don't know how the "rights" aspect will turn out. If a hospital worker claimed they couldn't wear mask or gloves in surgery because of their religion, how would that go over? But they won't, so that's a moot point.
All I know is it pisses me off and sets a bad example.
I admit to some conflict too. I think the religious excuse is damn near bogus, a way to get around they just don't trust shots. I think there are places where public health trumps personal freedom, and given the established science behind vaccination, and the risk to public health, I think this is such a case. Another is quarantine. If someone is highly infectious, such as active TB, should they be allowed to come and go as they please, untreated? Infecting others with fatal, potentially incurable disease?
ditto from me.
A hospice nurse is more likely even that other nurses to be in contact with patients whose immune system is compromised and whose risk of infection is higher. She has a right to refuse vaccination, but not a right to then work in a setting where she puts others at risk.