Local News

Pregnant Lancaster County nurse fired over refusal to get flu shot

A pregnant Lancaster County woman and registered nurse says her employer fired her for refusing to get a flu shot. The company says she was in violation of a mandate requiring employees to be vaccinated against the flu.

Dreonna Breton was overjoyed when she found out in October that she is pregnant. It dampened the pain of two miscarriages earlier this year, but now Breton is dealing with a new pain, unemployment.

Breton worked as a registered nurse for Horizon Healthcare Services up until December 17th, when they fired her for not getting a flu shot — now a requirement of all employees. Breton said when she found out her department was a part of the mandate, she started researching.

“There are no studies on pregnant women. The effects and safety are not known in pregnant women, and therefore, you can’t tell me that it’s 100 percent safe,” Breton said.

Horizon Healthcare Services did not agree with letters written by Breton, her midwife and a physician that supported a medical exemption.

Company president Carolyn Carlson, RN, cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s position that “flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies.”

Last Friday, Dr. Neil Green, chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Lancaster General Health, a part-owner of Horizon, said the influenza vaccination mandate is one mirrored by health systems across the country.

“What we’re doing this for is to protect our patients, because we owe it to them because they’re the real sick people,” Dr. Greene said. “They’re the ones that we worry about getting influenza.”

Breton has lost her job and a major source of income, but she has no regrets about challenging the policy.

“I’m not against people getting the flu vaccine,” she said. “But we live in a day and age where we can, and have the ability to do our own research, which we have the information at our fingertips. And why not? You’re, your best advocate.”

Read the full statement from Horizon Healthcare Services below:

From Carolyn Carlson, RN, President, Horizon Healthcare Services

Statement regarding mandatory flu vaccination for Horizon employees

Horizon Healthcare Services is committed to providing a safe environment for our employees and our patients. To that end, Horizon began requiring its employees receive an annual flu vaccination in 2012.

Like our requirements for TB skin testing and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination as a condition of employment, mandatory flu immunization protects our patients, employees, and community from getting this potentially serious infection.

Our flu immunization policy mirrors similar policies at Lancaster General Health and a growing number of healthcare providers throughout the country.

Requests for a medical exemption are reviewed against guidelines based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The request, which requires review by the employee’s personal physician, is then reviewed by a committee of physicians appointed by Horizon. For our employees who are pregnant, we believe that the flu vaccine provides a safe and effective way of protecting a mother and her unborn child from a serious illness.

Benefit to Horizon employees

Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in one’s immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.

The Centers for Disease Control dedicated this week as National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 8-14). The CDC publicly notes that, “Flu shots are a safe way to protect the mother and her unborn child from serious illness and complications of flu. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu shot.”

More about the CDC’s position on the flu vaccine and pregnant women can be found at:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm

In addition, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on its website states, “Flu shots are a safe way to protect the mother and her unborn child from serious illness and complications of flu. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years, and flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies.”

More about the ACOG recommendations can be found at: http://www.immunizationforwomen.org/faqs/faqs_seasonal_influenza

About Horizon

Horizon Healthcare Services provides home infusion therapy services to patients in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania. It is jointly owned by Lancaster General Health, Reading Health System, PinnacleHealth System and Penn State Hershey. For more information, visit its website at: http://www.horizonhealthcareservices.com

VIEW & ADD COMMENTS

3 Comments to “Pregnant Lancaster County nurse fired over refusal to get flu shot”

    MyTakeOnIt said:
    December 30, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    If an employer requires something and that something causes harm, the employer should be held legally liable for damages. There should be written agreement upon employment acceptances that a flu shot is required and a severance package to those who were already employed prior to the new policy or grandfather the requirement.

    JustSayin said:
    December 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    As a fellow registered nurse is York county….I agree with her decision to decline the flu vaccine. I have been a nurse since 2005 and have never had the flu vaccine nor do I plan on getting it. I just hope that the company I am with continues to accept ones decision to refuse! It is our decision after all!

    GWS said:
    December 31, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    The flu-shot decision should be the mother's and only the mother's. The hospital– or whatever Horizon is– merely enforced its rule. Boom….end of a non-story.

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