News in Nursing

Why Are Some Nurses Against Vaccines?

Yes, there are some nurses who are against vaccinations. Here's why.

Why Are Some Nurses Against Vaccines?

It’s surprising how many nurses are against flu vaccinations in their personal lives. You wouldn’t know this when you visit your doctor for your yearly flu shot, as the nurse administers your annual flu shot, but many nurses refuse to get vaccinated. They proudly let their opinions be known about vaccinations on social media. Most nurses keep this secret, and some healthcare workers conceal their identity on social media. They do not want to be censored by the Board of Nursing.

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Just like the rest of us, nurses have their own opinions about flu vaccinations, and their reasons vary. Nurses against flu vaccinations in their own lives may seem like a conflict of interest, but it isn’t. Real life tells us that nurses aren’t always morally in line with every treatment they give. They have opinions and getting vaccines is an excellent example of a difference of opinion.

Nurses are often placed in situations where they may need to administer care and medications they do not use. They are not being poor advocates for patients or lacking in education or judging their patients. It means they have opinions, but they comply with regular medical practices when necessary.

Every patient is entitled to informed consent. Patients have the power to decline vaccinations. If a patient refuses a vaccination for them or their child, this is their power over his or her own medical decisions. A firm denial eliminates morally controversial and awkward situations for a nurse who also believes that the flu vaccination is unnecessary.

Many people, including nurses, wonder if it’s worth getting a flu vaccine. With this said, if you are vaccinated, you are at less risk to get the flu, but the vaccine is no guarantee you won’t get some strain of the flu.

Many nurses argue that flu vaccinations are not worth the pain and trouble. You need to get vaccinated every year, and the mediation in the vaccine changes each year depending on the current strain. Is it not better to let diet and lifestyle dictate whether or not you get the flu? Interesting question, but one of many believers in vaccinations don’t want to explore.

Many nurses are mandated to get a flu vaccination, and this may be where the main controversy lies. However, consider that nurses come into contact with vulnerable people, like the young or sick, or the elderly who easily contract the flu. In theory, getting vaccinated reduces the risk that nurses will get the virus and pass it on to their patients.

What Is the Flu Vaccine Controversy About?

Nurses are crucial to giving vaccines to prevent the spread of the flu which is a highly contagious respiratory infection. The flu is caused by a virus and leads to about 200,000 hospitalizations and almost 36,000 deaths in the U.S. in a givenyear. Nurses can spread the flu to patients in their care because of direct patient contact. Nurses who refuse the vaccine are problematic for patients at high risk for flu-related complaints.

Many nurses feel that the flu vaccine is not safe. A Johns Hopkins scientist exposed flu vaccine dangers in a paper he tried to get published in a medical journal, but his paper had no peer review or endorsement. He argued that the benefits of the flu vaccination are glorified, and the risks are not fully published.

Peter Doshi, an anthropologist – not a medical professional – at Johns Hopkins argues that the flu vaccine is less than 100% effective and doesn’t work for everyone. This is true, however scientific medial studies prove that the flu vaccination reduces a child’s risk of ending up in the hospital by 74%.

There are nurses who feel that the flu vaccine causes autism in children. However, studies prove that a flu vaccination doesn’t cause the flu, and it doesn’t cause autism in children. Your arm is not injured when you get a flu shot, and a headache and achy feelings are your body’s immune system reacting to a foreign substance.

Several misconceptions exist in the medical community and might cause nurses to refuse the vaccine. These include:

  • Some nurses might believe they have robust immune systems because they work around sick people all the time. These myths can be debunked by current scientific research.
  • The most common myth is flu vaccines cause the flu. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, reports that it's biologically impossible for you to catch the flu from a vaccination. The reason? The vaccine comes from a killed virus. Also, there are only a few proteins from that dead virus in the vaccine itself. No one is getting injected with a whole virus.
  • The flu shot is painful. Only 20 percent of those who get the flu shot have soreness in the arm that received the shot. Sore arms usually last a day then go away. Some people who get a flu shot get a headache after the vaccination. These are just the body’ immune response to the vaccine; you do not have the flu.

Another myth of the flu vaccine is it causes autism in children. Studies show there is no connection between vaccines and developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. ASD is a developmental disability caused by differences in how the brain functions. The ingredients in vaccines do not cause autism.

At one time, an ingredient in flu vaccines was thimerosal, or a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination in multidose vials of vaccines. However, during 1999 to 2001, thimerosal was removed or reduced in all childhood vaccines, and in many flu vaccines. If you are nervous that your child will get autism from a flu vaccine, and your nurse agrees with you, you can ask for thimerosal-free alternatives for the flu vaccination.

Who thought up the idea that the flu vaccine or a vaccine caused autism in children? Dr. Andrew Wakefield was a British researcher who published a paper claiming there was a link between autism and vaccinations. Since his article was published in 1998, Dr. Wakefield has had his medical license revoked and the paper removed from medical journals. Further studies and research claimed that Dr. Wakefield’s research was a fraud.

However, many believed Dr. Wakefield’s research, including nurses, and vaccination rates fell in the U.S. His fraud threw a “bad light” onto these life-saving vaccines. There is a nurse in an east coast hospital who is expressing her thoughts in social media that the flu vaccine causes autism. Her statements have caused an uproar in the nursing community. Yet, there are no studies proving this statement.

What’s the Real Controversy?

According to Health Impact News, October 2018, the flu shot controversy rises from healthcare workers being mandated to get vaccinated against the flu. Dr. Karen Sullivan Sibert, MD, stated that the government directive in Los Angeles County for healthcare workers and specifically nurses, who refuse to get an annual flu shot, must wear a mask while taking care of patients.

Dr. Sibert states this order is against HIPAA privacy law. Dr. Sullivan points out that hospitals do not require patients’ visitors to show proof they have had a flu vaccination or wear masks. Why, the question is, should healthcare workers be threatened with job loss if they don’t get the flu vaccination?

Nurses should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to get a flu vaccination or not. Nurses who administer flu vaccinations should be allowed to give their patients the opportunity to decide for themselves if they want the vaccine. The major question is, is getting the flu vaccine better than taking a chance that some other immune reaction will be activated? Do those nurses against the flu vaccine know something?

The flu-vaccine controversy is puzzling. Is it merely a right to choose whether a nurse is mandated to be vaccinated, or is there scientific justification in refusing a flu vaccination?