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Nurses Fired; Flu Vaccine Exemptions Denied On Dubious Pretext, Doctors' Group Says

TUCSON, Ariz., Jan. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Eight employees, including at least three veteran nurses, have been fired by Goshen Hospital, in Goshen, Indiana, for refusing the flu vaccine. A religious exemption is available, but was denied because these employees did not meet the criteria for religious protection established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"What gives the EEOC the authority to define what constitutes an acceptable religious belief?" asks Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

AAPS opposes vaccine mandates, believing that patients and healthcare workers have the right to refuse medical treatment.

Hospitals may agree with the right to refuse treatment, but assert the right to determine conditions for employment. They cite concerns about protecting patients from transmission of influenza by unvaccinated staff.

"The scientific and religious concerns are in a sense backward," Dr. Orient stated. "Advocates of the mandate are full of evangelical zeal and are quick to portray skeptics as wicked and selfish. It's like a secular religion, based on faith in vaccine efficacy and safety."

In fact, the scientific case for flu vaccine mandates is very weak, Dr. Orient points out in an article in the winter issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. A handful of studies show slight benefit in long-term care facilities. Hospitals have not been studied. Safety data are limited, and there are no long-term studies of the effects of annual vaccination. Serious, lifelong disability occasionally occurs. There is no evidence showing that vaccinated workers are less likely to transmit virus.

Studies and advisory committees are compromised by conflicts of interest, and some researchers cite "evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions."

Do hospitals have a financial incentive from the government to force workers to be vaccinated? There should be greater transparency for the real reasons behind such heavy-handedness by hospitals.

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