Healthcare workers who don’t vaccinate–nothing but dumbasses

hand_sanitizer_xkcd

I caught a cold the flu. And I don’t just write about infectious diseases because it’s some intellectual pursuit, but I hate viruses, bacteria, and parasites. I make the worst possible patient when I have a cold flu, calling and texting every healthcare worker I know for advice.

By the way, I know it’s not the flu a cold, not because I was vaccinated against the flu, but because my symptoms are for a cold. They are completely different diseases, but people conflate the two all the time. The flu knocks you out with much more severe symptoms that last for 2 weeks, sometimes more. The common cold lasts for a few days, and after a couple of days, you usually can get back to doing things.

One of the stupid myths of the vaccine deniers (specifically about the flu vaccine, because I’m shocked at how many people vaccinate for everything but invent stories about the flu vaccine) is that people claim they catch the flu AFTER the vaccine. Now, some tiny percentage of those claims might be true, especially if you contracted the flu prior to getting vaccinated. Also, the vaccine isn’t perfect (nor did I expect it is), so I caught the flu. I feel terrible, but I shall endure. And I still am 100% behind the flu vaccine.

The only way I’d be convinced someone actually had the flu after vaccination is a lab report confirming it. Those tests, which can be done in any doctor’s office, are fast and easy.

Back to my cold. I think I caught it from a nurse in my physician’s office on Wednesday, but it’s impossible to tell, since I might have gotten it anywhere over the past few days. She was really ill, but she was wearing a cheap surgical mask that probably had all the effectiveness of not wearing anything at all. She really shouldn’t have been working, but people always think that they’re somehow more powerful than they are.

This got me to thinking about something that gets under my skin all the time. I know a lot of health care workers who don’t want to vaccinate must wear masks. My health care provider, a massive, modern healthcare system on the West Coast, makes it mandatory for its employees to either prove that they have antibodies to most diseases, or they must be vaccinated. The system checks the results and orders the vaccinations, so there’s no sneaky way to get an exemption. The rules cover physicians, residents, medical students, nursing students, nurses, and anyone else in contact with patients.

However, the flu vaccine is not mandatory. And as Mark Crislip has written, healthcare workers who refuse the flu vaccine are simply dumbasses. Period. End of story.

nursing shoes walk the walk flu



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I don’t get how a healthcare worker thinks their “rights” are being violated if the best science on the planet says that vaccines not only protect one’s self, but also patients. How arrogant and selfish are these healthcare workers? I’m sure they pretend to care about patients, but when push comes to shove, they are inconsiderate and callous to their patients.

If these healthcare workers think that the flu vaccine is either dangerous or doesn’t work, they are serious dumbasses. I can’t begin to list all of the peer-reviewed articles published in top journals which state that the flu vaccine is safe for adults, elderly, children, pregnant women, and healthcare workers. Yes, the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, mainly because the flu virus is a mutating bastard that keeps researchers trying to predict the future. The vaccine may also be imperfect because of bias in the statistical analysis, something we cannot correct, given how data is collected for the flu vaccine. Furthermore, the current vaccine is highly effective against 3 forms of seasonal flu, all of which are just as dangerous as the fourth one.

Let’s go back to these healthcare workers. Let’s say that a nurse or physician or EKG tech are antivaccine, but actually care about their patients. They don’t come to work if they catch the flu (and hospitals are great places to catch the flu, since people go there when they’re sick). The problem is that the flu is contagious for 24-48 hours prior to symptoms appearing. In other words, these healthcare workers pass on the virus to at-risk patients and others before they’re sick enough to go home. More dumbass thinking.

Some healthcare workers wear masks. Now, the only masks that really work are N-95 fitted surgical masks. The pores of the mask are small enough to block tiny 20-100 µm viruses. However, two major issues:

  1. The mask has to be properly fitted, meaning you just don’t grab one out of the box and put it on. Surgeons, who are paranoid about infections to their patients (but still, they don’t vaccinate sometimes), try on several versions before getting one that has a tight fit to prevent air from passing through gaps.
  2. The mask only guarantees that it blocks 95% (hence, N-95) of viruses. That may sound great, but it isn’t. The humorous xkcd cartoon above makes it clear–200 million viruses, all infectious, can be shot out of your mouth with one sneeze. So that means the N-95 mask allows 10 million viruses to spread from one sneeze. On what imaginary planet do healthcare workers think that even expensive masks like the N-95 can do anything at all to protect patients?

Healthcare workers enter the profession to help people, a genuinely altruistic pursuit. A specialized physician, like someone in infectious diseases (see Mark Crislip above), may spend 12-14 years in education, training, and specialization. Maybe some physicians did it to buy a new Ferrari, it’s still hard work to get there. Learning how to play poker may be more lucrative and easier to master.

These healthcare workers need to place patient health above any abstract “freedom to do whatever stupid thing I want as a nurse or doctor.” In fact, absent a major ruling from the Supreme Court (or other legal systems in other countries), hospitals and healthcare systems can make vaccines mandatory. Because they’re whole reason for existence to to save patents’ lives.

There are nurse’s organizations that genuinely urge (in a much nicer way than I could muster) their brotherhood/sisterhood to vaccinate against the flu. The organization, Nurses Who Vaccinate, reports that around 75% of nurses do vaccinate against the flu, a good number, but not a great one.

I personally refuse to accept medical care from anyone who doesn’t vaccinate, if it’s apparent–I’m not going to ask for a full medical record, but I might. Why would I accept the opinion on real medicine from someone who rejects real science based medicine? I think it’s sad that these healthcare workers have invented an issue, where none should exist. Get vaccinated you dumbass vaccine refusers.

Note–yes some healthcare workers need to refuse vaccines for medical reasons, like allergies to the ingredients in the vaccine. They are not dumbasses. They just have some bad luck.

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!