- Just before Thanksgiving, Duluth-based Essentia Health, a company which owns and operates 15 hospitals and 75 medical clinics in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho, fired 69 employees who refused to get an annual flu shot
- Hundreds more were warned by the company that their jobs were in jeopardy unless they get vaccinated. Even though Minnesota state law does not mandate influenza vaccinations for health care workers, Essentia extended the requirement to Minnesota workers as well
- Worker’s unions have objected to the policy. The Minnesota Nurses Association and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board
- According to a recent study, the research used to justify mandatory annual flu shots for health workers is seriously flawed, and “the policies cannot plausibly produce the benefits that had widely been assumed”
- Other studies have concluded that vaccinating health care workers does not decrease the incidence of or mortality from influenza among patients. Meanwhile, more adults receive federal compensation for influenza vaccine injuries, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, than any other injury covered by the government’s vaccine injury compensation program (VICP)
By Dr. Mercola
Mandatory influenza vaccinations for health care workers — who really benefits from this draconian measure? While public health officials tell you that mandatory flu shots for all health care workers will protect patients from influenza, there’s virtually no good scientific evidence to support such claims.
If health and safety were really the chief aim of this forced vaccination policy, why not mandate vitamin D testing and optimization, since vitamin D supplementation has been shown to be 10 times more effective than getting a flu shot if you are vitamin D deficient?1,2
Even if you’re not deficient in vitamin D, studies evaluating the “number needed to treat” (NNT) reveal it is estimated that one person would be spared from getting sick with influenza for every 33 people taking a vitamin D supplement (NNT = 33), whereas 40 people would have to receive the flu vaccine in order to prevent a single case of the flu (NNT = 40).3
But, what would the financial incentive be for that? Unfortunately, it appears mandating annual flu shots for health care workers is little more than a for-profit scheme transformed into oppressive health policy and law by drug industry insiders and powerful lobbyists.
Health Care Personnel Fired for Vaccine Refusal
Over the past few years, a number of health care workers have been threatened and gotten the boot for refusing to get an annual flu shot; most recently, just before Thanksgiving, Duluth-based Essentia Health — a company founded in 2003 that owns and operates 15 hospitals and 75 medical clinics located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho — added their name to the list.
In addition to owning hospitals and clinics, the company also owns and operates fitness and therapy centers, rehabilitation centers, long term care facilities, assisted/independent living facilities, medical equipment and supply centers and pharmacies.4 They made headlines when it was first reported that they had fired some 50 employees who refused to get an annual flu shot.5,6,7 A few days later The BMJ reported that a total of Essentia Health 69 employees had been let go.8
Hundreds more workers were warned their jobs were in jeopardy unless they get the flu shot. Minnesota employees were particularly disturbed by the requirement, as state law does not mandate influenza vaccinations for health care workers. Still, Essentia decided to extend the mandate to its Minnesota workers, as well.
According to Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, Essentia’s chief patient safety officer, the 69 workers were fired because they refused vaccination and did not meet Essentia’s strict criteria qualifications for either a medical or religious vaccine exemption.9
The problem is the medical exemption defined by federal public health officials is so narrow that more than 99 percent of people do not qualify for it. A personal history of many autoimmune and neurological disorders — or even serious reactions to previous vaccinations — are not considered contraindications to vaccination according to federal health officials, and often those government guidelines are the ones used by companies like Essentia to deny medical exemptions to vaccination.
Scot Harvey, a night and weekend administrator at an Essentia hospital in Duluth said he refused the flu vaccine because he had suffered severe fatigue and other symptoms after receiving government-mandated vaccines during his military service. His vaccine exemption request was denied by company officials, and he became one of the 69 employees fired for vaccine refusal. Harvey spoke out in an article in the Star Tribune:10
“Harvey said … the form limited exemptions to medically documented vaccine allergies or histories of Guillain-Barre Syndrome following vaccinations … A registered nurse, Harvey said his stance might make it harder to find work. But he felt it was an issue of free choice. ‘If nobody stands up and says, ‘Hey, this isn’t right,’‘ he said, ‘then next year everybody in health care is going to have to have a flu shot, and then everybody in every job is going to have to have a flu shot.'”
Workers’ Unions Object to Mandatory Vaccination Requirement
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Harvey added, “I don’t see how an employer can have the right to decide what I have to do to my body in order to keep a job.”11 Surgical technologist Paula Bullyan, who has worked for more than 15 years for a Duluth hospital now owned by Essentia, expressed a similar sentiment. She said that whether or not to receive the flu vaccine is “my choice, and they’re taking away my choice, to either receive or to take an injection into my body that I do not want.”12
Jen Hutzell, a cleaner and care aide at the Oak Crossing long-term care facility in Detroit Lakes owned by Essentia, told the Star Tribune she sought a vaccine exemption based on previous experience with the flu vaccine. The Star Tribune reported: 13 “Hutzell said the only year she suffered flu-like illnesses was 1995 — the one year she received a flu shot in order to be around her newborn son, who was born prematurely and needed intensive care. ‘That was the sickest year of my life,’ she said.”
Several workers’ unions have objected to the policy. The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, and MNA has announced its intent to file grievances on behalf of fired nurses. According to the article featured in the Star Tribune:14
“As many as 400 doctors, nurses or other workers hadn’t been vaccinated as of Nov[ember] 15, when Essentia reported 97 percent compliance among its 15,000 employees. But many of those holdouts got shots or filed exemptions before the company’s Nov[ember] 20 deadline. Prabhu said 99 percent of Essentia’s workers have now complied …”
Vaccine Mandate Based on Flawed and Weak Evidence
Earlier this year, published research called into question the scientific evidence used to push for mandatory flu vaccination of all hospital personnel. As reported by STAT News,15 “The study … concludes that the research used to justify mandatory flu shots for health sector workers is flawed, and that the policies cannot plausibly produce the benefits that had widely been assumed,” adding that:
“[T]he methodology of the studies produced results that don’t stand up to scrutiny … None of the studies were conducted in hospitals; all took place in long-term care facilities. One the studies, from Britain, calculated that one influenza death would be averted for every eight staff members vaccinated.
But if that were correct, vaccinating the estimated 1.7 million health care workers employed in long-term care in the United States should prevent 212,500 flu deaths a year among residents. There’s an obvious problem though, the paper noted. Nowhere near that many people die from flu in the U.S. …
‘The study … does not refute that vaccination could have some impact on reducing transmission from infected health care workers to patients. But it clearly shows there’s no well-conducted study that demonstrates that at this time. Our public policy should be guided as such,’ said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy. …”
Other studies have concluded that vaccinating all health care workers does not decrease incidence of or mortality from influenza among patients, which essentially renders the practice useless.
After the largest flu-vaccination campaign in Canadian history, a Canadian-led study published in 2010 by the Cochrane Collaboration,16a well respected international network of researchers who analyze the scientific evidence and methodology used in clinical trials, concluded that vaccinating nursing home workers had no effect on lab-confirmed influenza cases among the elderly residents of nursing homes.
Lead researcher Dr. Roger Thomas explained, “What troubled us is that [flu vaccinations] had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza. What we were looking for is proof that influenza … is decreased. Didn’t find it. We looked for proof that pneumonia is reduced. Didn’t find it. We looked for proof deaths from pneumonia are reduced. Didn’t find it.”
Flu Vaccine Can Cause Serious Problems and May Do Seniors More Harm Than Good
An influenza vaccine study published in 200517 warned that, rather than saving lives, the influenza vaccine may actually be useless in preventing influenza in a significant number of senior citizens,18 an age group that for decades has been strongly advised to get a flu shot every year. According to the authors of this study:
“We could not correlate increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 with declining mortality rates in any age group. Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”
Pregnant women are a “high risk” group told by public health officials and doctors to get a flu shot during any trimester because influenza-related complications during pregnancy have been associated with increased risk of death for the mother and developing fetus.
However, a study published this year19 found pregnant women who had received a pandemic H1N1-containing influenza vaccination (pH1N1) and were given another flu shot during pregnancy, were more likely to suffer miscarriage within 28 days after receiving the second influenza vaccination. Most miscarriages occurred during the first trimester, but some took place in the second trimester.
The median fetal age at the time of miscarriage was seven weeks. Pregnant women who received concurrent pH1N1-containing flu vaccines had a nearly eightfold higher risk of miscarriage than those who did not receive the vaccine. Despite such risks, pregnant health care workers have been, and will likely continue to be, fired for refusing influenza vaccine.20
Fear of Financial Penalties Drive Mandatory Vaccination Policy
Public health officials and owners of hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities insist that mandatory vaccination policies for health care workers protect patients — a claim that remains unsupported by credible science.
A far greater incentive for companies to force flu shots on health care workers appears to be the financial penalties hospitals and other medical care facilities face from the federal government if their vaccination rates are too low. Since 2013, hospitals have been required to report influenza vaccination rates among hospital personnel under the federal Medicare quality care reporting program.
The average flu vaccination coverage rate for health care workers has historically hovered around the 70 percent mark, although some health care facilities have reported rates as low as 20 percent.21
The goal of officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to achieve a 90 percent health care worker vaccination rate by 2020,22 and a key strategy for meeting this goal is to tie a health care facility’s employee flu vaccination rate to the facility’s Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government.23
In other words, health care facilities participating in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Inpatient Prospective Payment System Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program that fail to meet a 90 percent employee flu vaccination rate now get reimbursed 2 percent LESS from Medicare and Medicaid.
This is a drop in funding that can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.24 This loss of federal funding, far more so than any concern for patient welfare, is a more likely explanation for why hospitals are now choosing to fire essential medical personnel refusing a flu shot rather than allow them to simply wear a mask during flu season, as was done in the past.
Elizabeth Fowler, the Health Insurance Executive Who Drafted Obamacare
So, who came up with this strategy? A key “mastermind” behind the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, abbreviated as ACA, but colloquially known as Obamacare, was Elizabeth Fowler, chief health policy counsel to the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus. Evidence suggests Fowler drafted the entire legislation.25,26
As reported by The Guardian in 2012, before joining Baucus’ office, Fowler was vice president for public policy and external affairs at WellPoint, the largest health insurance provider in the U.S. “Watch the five-minute Bill Moyers report from 2009 … on the key role played in all of this by Liz Fowler and the ‘revolving door’ between the health insurance/lobbying industry and government officials at the time this bill was written and passed,” The Guardian wrote.27
I’ve included the video in question above. As offensive as it is to allow a former health insurance industry executive to write the nation’s health care bill, the Obama Administration chose Fowler as the overseer of the implementation of the bill as well. According to her bio,28she also “played a key role in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act.”
Fowler, a poster child for the revolving doors between industry and government, then went on to become special assistant to the president for health care and economic policy at the National Economic Council before taking a senior executive position with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, as vice president of its global health policy, government affairs and policy group. As noted by The Guardian:
“The pharmaceutical giant that … hired Fowler actively supported the passage of Obamacare through its membership in the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobby. Indeed, PhRMA was one of the most aggressive supporters — and most lavish beneficiaries — of the health care bill drafted by Fowler.
Mother Jones’ James Ridgeway proclaimed “Big Pharma” the “big winner” in the health care bill. And now, Fowler will receive ample rewards from that same industry as she peddles her influence in government and exploits her experience with its inner workings to work on that industry’s behalf …”
US Federal Government — Bought and Paid for by Industry
The documentary “Bought,”29 embedded above for your convenience, reveals how the U.S. government has been overtaken by the food and health care industries. While these may seem like two distinctly separate industries that have little in common, they are actually inextricably linked, and you cannot effectively address one without addressing the other.
Filmmaker Jeff Hays described his film, “[T]he film covers how our entire health care system, from education to practice has been Bought … three story lines converge on Wall Street, in a tale of corruption, greed and shocking lack of conscience.”
Forced vaccinations are part and parcel of this larger scheme where industries write the rules and profit from public health policies, such as recommendations for universal use of all federally recommended vaccines and state mandatory vaccination laws that restrict or eliminate vaccine exemptions.
If you think mandatory vaccination requirements are as bad as they can possibly get, think again. It’s just the beginning. Once we give up our right to exercise informed consent to vaccination and choose which vaccines we or our children do or do not use, you can be sure other basic human rights will be swiftly removed as well.
It’s just a matter of time. In some states, children now cannot get an education in a public or private school — from kindergarten through college — unless they’ve received all federally recommended childhood vaccines and boosters.
Before you know it, you won’t be able to get an education or work anywhere unless you’re fully up-to-date on all government recommended and mandated vaccinations. It is also probable that, in the future, you won’t be able to travel without proving you have gotten a certain number of vaccines. It may sound unlikely, but plans are already in motion to make these nightmare scenarios a reality. After that, say hello to forced medical care and forced prescription drug use.
In drafting the Affordable Care Act, Fowler — a former health insurance executive — helped make sure you have no choice when it comes to buying health insurance; you either buy it or you pay a fine. That’s what happens when Congress allows industry insiders to write the nation’s laws, and why the revolving doors between government and industry need to be closed.
The fact that these revolving doors exist is also why we must fight to retain the legal right to take control of our health and make our own health choices, especially when it comes to medical and vaccine risk-taking.
Flu Vaccine Is Not Worth the Risk to Your Health
As shown in my “2017 to 2018 Flu Vaccine Update,” numerous studies have shown the flu vaccine simply does not work, so why force health care workers to risk their own health? After all, the risks of harm and failure are quite real. Influenza vaccinations are actually among the leading cases in the federal vaccine injury compensation program (VICP). There are more adults receiving compensation for influenza vaccine injuries, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), than any other injury covered by the VICP.
“You can be, literally, completely paralyzed from the neck down and not be able to do anything if you get a very severe case of GBS following vaccination,” Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, warns. “People need to wake up and understand that you need to get information about not only influenza but the risks and failures associated with these flu vaccines.
There are many manufacturers now who are manufacturing flu vaccines, because it’s such a lucrative market now that the government has said that every year, every single American from the age of 6 months through the year of death, has to get a flu shot.”
As time goes on scientists are also discovering there’s a lot we don’t understand about infectious diseases and how viruses mutate and vaccines work. For example, the influenza vaccine used during the 2012- 2013 flu season was found to be ineffective, but not due to mutations in the circulating virus.
Instead, researchers concluded the vaccine did not work due to mutations in the egg-adapted H3N2 vaccine strain, the lab-altered influenza virus strain used in the vaccine. This mutation of the vaccine strain virus ultimately caused the vaccine to be a mismatch to the most prevalent influenza strain circulating that year.30
A study31 published in 2013 also showed that getting vaccinated against one strain of influenza raises your risk of severe infection from a related but different influenza strain. So, are annual flu shots making the health of Americans better or worse? And is mandating annual flu shots for health care workers really in the best interest of patients and the public health?
Based on the evidence, one could easily argue that this employment requirement places essential health care personnel at an ever-increasing risk for severe health complications, while doing very little, if anything, to protect the health of patients in their care. Ultimately, the only real winners, and the ones whose risk is zero, are the pharmaceutical companies marketing vaccines and other companies and special interest groups that profit from vaccine mandates for children and adults.