Many have recently read that Gov. Cuomo, due to a significant and early flu epidemic, declared a public health emergency. His goal was to get more people, especially the young, easier access to flu vaccination.
But what no one is talking about and what is killing patients right now is that the majority of hospital workers — the ones caring for sick patients — are not getting vaccinated.
It’s not because many hospitals aren’t going out of their way to do so; as I have witnessed a very strong program, in a hospital I work at, to vaccinate anyone who wishes, at their greatest convenience, and for no cost.
It’s because many workers just don’t want to get vaccinated.
In the past few weeks I’ve spoken to infectious disease doctors as well as some hospital workers, and I was informed that as many as two-thirds of the hospital staff was not vaccinated.
Most told me that they didn’t take the vaccine because they were healthy and when they did take a flu vaccine in the past they felt as if they got a minor case of the flu.
But the viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot and the risk of getting any serious reaction is extremely small.
Sure, some people will complain of some soreness at the site and some may have a day or two of muscle aches or a low-grade fever, but that doesn’t mean you can get the flu from a flu shot!
According to the infectious disease doctors I spoke with, hospitals have attempted to make flu vaccination mandatory but were beaten back by lawyers representing union members.
Right now you cannot force workers, at a hospital, to have a flu vaccination, even if they work on a oncology floor, caring for immunosuppressed patients on chemotherapy.
Too many hospital employees are now coming to work, thinking that they may be coming down with a cold, when they actually have early stages of the flu. They work in close contact with immunosuppressed patients — the elderly, cancer patients, and patients just recovering from major operations — and they are unknowingly infecting them with the flu.
There will likely be hundreds killed, just in the New York area by hospital workers who foolishly and selfishly refused the flu vaccine. Hundreds!
And there is nothing we can do.
Dr. Levine is a cardiologist who lives in Ridgefield and is the author of “What Your Doctor Won’t (or Can’t) Tell You: The Failures of American Medicine — and How to Avoid Becoming A Statistic.” Questions for this column may be e-mailed to him at [email protected]