Wall Street Corporations Don’t Have to Stand in Line for H1N1 Vaccine

     Three weeks ago, I walked into an elevator and stood next to a middle-aged woman. I didn’t notice the younger woman squatting in the corner next to her until the doors closed, or else I’d have waited for the next car. Dressed in flannel pajamas and a messy ponytail, she held a large ceramic mixing bowl up to her greenish and pale face. Then I realized she was pregnant. She had the flu, and her mother was taking her the hospital. I hoped this young mother and her unborn baby would be okay. The H1N1 vaccine was not readily available in Portland.  The virus had gotten her before she could do anything to prevent it. It seemed so unfair.

     There was a discussion on the news yesterday about what’s fair. Several large Wall Street corporations have received 200 doses each, of the H1N1 vaccine for their employees. It’s the same amount of doses given to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. The vaccine was acquired legally. Since H1N1 flu has been declared a national emergency, and many high risk patients are standing in long lines to receive the vaccine, the question  has to be asked: is it fair for large corporations to receive the vaccine for their employees first?

     Watch this NBC news video,  and see what you think.


The H1N1 Vaccine: I Took One for the Team


Romeo & Juliette

Romeo & Juliette 2009 oil on unstretched canvas artist: JParadisi


 This post is in response to  a post by Shawn Kennedy MA, RN, interim editor-in-chief of the AJN blog,  Off the Chart. Read the original post here:


     I stood in line and took the H1N1 vaccine.

     I didn’t do it out of guilt, or because of media induced panic. When it came down to it, I did it because of a child I love, and for a close family member who is pregnant. That’s all. I don’t want to catch the virus at work, and give it to either of these people.  So far, my arm hasn’t fallen off or anything. 

     I respect every health care worker’s right to make their own decision about the vaccine.  Of course, all kinds of parallels can be drawn from this issue, including the rights of smokers to smoke, the right to drink soda without taxation, the right to drive without a seat belt, be overweight, or ride a bicycle without a helmet. 

    One characteristic of effective conflict resolution between two parties is to stay issue focused. Otherwise, indeed, “slippery-slope” thinking occurs.  A health care worker may not want the H1N1 vaccination, but be pro-life.  One doesn’t necessarily support the other.  

     I agree, the arguments are similar, but one issue at a time, please.

(late entry/clarification: I am not advocating for the above listed behaviors.  I think that not smoking is probably the single most  important thing an idividual can do to stay healthy. The list simply illustrates that we live in a society which creates laws regarding personal freedoms.)

Mandatory Flu shots for Healthcare Workers Criticized in New York

     Today’s New York Times has an article supporting the right of that city’s health care workers to refuse both the seasonal  and H1N1 vaccinations. It brings up some very good points, like the question, why is it ethical to violate one group of peoples’ rights over another’s, and do states have the right to enact it?

     Presenting mandatory vaccination of nurses (and other health care workers) as an ethical responsibility, is a tactic  utilizing the media’s representation of nurse- as-angel: ever- willing to sacrifice his or her own feelings of safety to save the world. I don’t worry about the Nurse Jackies, or Hawthornes, but when media-produced stereotypes  extend to manipulate a group of people into believing that self-sacrifice, without justification, is necessary, they are harmful. Nurses are just people, like everyone else. We have rights over our own bodies, and the choices we make about them.

     Read the article:


Code Oink: An RN Considers the H1N1 Vaccine.

    The other day I was walking through a hallway at the hospital, when one of the staff began coughing. He looked embarrassed, and I told him he’d better cut it out, or someone may call a Code Oink, which is:  he gets tackled to the floor, has a cotton swab pushed up his nose, a vaccination shot into his arm, and a mask thrown over his head before he’s booted out of the hospital and into the street. We both laughed, but neither of us was sure it wouldn’t actually happen.

     I’ll probably get the H1N1 vaccination this flu season. I’ve had MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), tetanus shots, and the hepatitis B series, all without damage.

    Personally, I’m still waiting for SARS, West Nile Virus, Bird flu, and killer bees, each of which were predicted as the next pandemic of their time. 

     Cynical as I am, it’s logical to admit that eventually the epidemiologists will be right, and we’ll have a pandemic of something;  maybe it will be the Swine Flu.

     What puzzles me is my aversion to taking the vaccine. As mentioned, I’ve been vaccinated for almost everything else. Why am I dragging my feet over this?

     The answer is: I resent the insinuation that I am not considering my patients’  or coworkers’ safety  if I refuse the vaccination.

     Nurses work twelve hour shifts, often without breaks of any substance. We stay over time because of late admissions, coding patients and short staffing. We come in on our days off for education and staff meetings. We miss family birthdays and holidays. We fly in small aircraft through bad weather transporting sick patients from one hospital to another so that they receive the care they need. We admit patients with contagious diseases we aren’t aware that they have. We continue to take care of them once we know what terrible, contagious disease they have.  We are exposed to second hand smoke from our patients and their visitors. We are exposed to violent patients. Still, we return for our next shift.

        I cannot speak for any nurse other than myself, but attempts to make me feel guilty do not motivate me; they make me feel manipulated. 

        Just tell us what I perceive to be the truth:  Health care administrators are afraid that this time, there really is going to be a pandemic, and if health care professionals don’t get the H1N1 vaccine, there may not be enough available staff to take care of all of the sick patients. Just say “please get the vaccination. We can’t afford for all of you to get sick.”  Admit it: you need us, all of us.

     We’ve known it all along.