Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 13, 2013

Go beyond the headlines and check the facts


— Ech, the flu.

No, I don’t have it. Haven’t had the flu — IF that was the flu, even — for at least five years. I hope you or your children don’t have it either. It can be pretty nasty, I know.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza season is raring with cases across the country. A most recent report, updated Jan. 11, showed more than 40 U.S. states reporting increases in influenza-like activity (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm).

Wait. Not, necessarily, increases in actual cases of influenza infections — increases in “influenza-like activity.” You know the kind? Fever, aches and pains, maybe runny nose and cough? Turns out, according to the CDC, that of that influenza-like activity tested in laboratories in recent weeks, less than one-third is actually the flu.

That means some 70 percent of what people THINK is the flu is not.

So we do not, friends, have an influenza outbreak and, definitely, not an “epidemic,” as has been reportedly stated by some federal health officials (see a CNN report here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/09/health/us-flu-season/index.html). We have a nasty cold outbreak. Just like we do most every year.

What’s my point? What’s my agenda today?

For one, I wish to challenge people to go beyond the headlines, to dig in and read the facts of any given matter, particularly when the facts affect their healthcare choices. Two, I hope to get you thinking about the almighty “flu shot,” which, it turns out, isn’t so almighty after all — at least not against the “influenza-like activity” that’s reportedly sweeping the nation.

No doubt you’ve read about seven employees of IU Health Goshen Hospital who no longer have jobs there after they refused to receive a mandated flu vaccine? If you haven’t read the recently published stories, start with The Goshen News’ Jan. 9 account here: http://goshennews.com/local/x2056578309/Goshen-nurses-lose-jobs-after-refusing-flu-vaccination.

Essentially, hospital employees were fired after falling out of compliance with policies that require nurses and other health-care workers to be vaccinated for influenza. No flu shot? No job. The mandate stems from a recommendation from the powerful CDC for an annual flu vaccine for everyone age 6 months and older (with a few exceptions).

And I keep writing flu “shot,” but it’s worth noting of the 16 influenza vaccines marketed in the U.S., not all are injections. Some are inhaled.

Most of the nurses who refused the vaccine cited “religious” reasons for not wanting it. Their bodies are made — “fearfully and wonderfully,” they might add — and to inject what could be construed as poison into their systems is highly repulsive to the Maker. That’s one rationale.

I worked on my own “religious exemption” paperwork for the flu vaccine before I gave up, realizing my repulsion is mostly scientific. Frankly, the flu vaccine doesn’t seem to be all that effective in keeping people from getting sick. In fact, for a healthy woman who consciously makes efforts at enhancing and supporting her immune system, one who hasn’t had the flu in ages — if ever — I’ve come to believe the risks of the vaccine outweighed any alleged benefits.

So here’s a crux, a question that bears answering: If the flu vaccine were so effective, why, then are federal health officials making headlines with what they’re calling a flu “epidemic,” an epidemic which isn’t even the flu at all? (Crazy double-speak!) More people get the vaccine these days than ever before, right? I mean, most agencies from childcare centers to factories to schools offer the vaccine, if not require it. But there’s an epidemic? Among all these vaccinated people?

This just hit me: Perhaps the flu vaccine is, in fact, effective — effective against the actual influenza virus which may or may not be around. BUT, BUT, it doesn’t seem to be helping with this so-called epidemic of “influenza-like activity,” the stuff from which we are, actually, suffering.

YET, YET, the vaccines are marketed that way, marketed as if they prevent the “influenza-like activity,” pitched as a guarantee — so much so hospital administrators are willing to believe if their workers are vaccinated, they’re “safe,” and if they’re not, they’re not.

Few people question that assertion. I am one of the few. You should be, too. Start here at the National Vaccine Information Center and dig in: http://www.nvic.org/.

SO I DID get the shot, by the way. Under silent, or semi-silent, protest. Now that I think about it, I should have gone on a hunger strike — perhaps that would have helped me with these 20 pounds. Instead, I beefed up my immunity-enhancing supplements for a couple of weeks and paid a nurse practitioner to stick me. I suffered no palpable negative effects.

Seriously, I thought a lot about it. It was get the vaccine or don’t participate in clinical training at a local hospital. Don’t participate in clinical training, can’t become a nurse. I want to become a nurse.

Personally, I decided it wasn’t the hill for me to die on, so to speak. I’m hoping they’re won’t ever be one, but I’m dubious.

I do offer my admiration and support to the nurses at Goshen who stood their ground and said, “No” to the vaccine. They put their money — literally — where their mouths were and brought attention to the very foundational precepts of nursing care: You respect your patient’s right to informed consent or refusal, to autonomy in health and wellness decisions. It still appalls me that nurses instructed to respect those basic rights in their patients are not afforded the same.

Ech, the flu.

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”