Pregnant nurse: I was fired for refusing flu vaccine


"Breton, 29, worked as a nurse at Horizons Healthcare Services in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, when she was told that all employees were required to get a flu shot. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention advises that all health care professionals get vaccinated annually.
She told her employers that she would not get the vaccine after she explained that there were very limited studies of the effects on pregnant women.

Breton came to the decision with her family after three miscarriages."

“Breton offered to wear a face mask at work, a practice that is used if employees are exempted for religious reasons. The hospital did not approve, according to Breton.”


My question was whether she received a medical opinion to this effect. The article says that she received two.

The mother of one submitted letters from her obstetrician and primary care doctor supporting her decision, but she was told that she would be fired on December 17 if she did not receive the vaccine before then.

It is wrong to fire someone for attempting to follow medical advice.


I work for a healthcare company that does a lot of work in nursing homes. We are offered a flu shot but no one is required. You have to sign a waiver that you were offered one and chose not to take it.


Sorry, but I agree she should have been fired, or perhaps placed on a temporary leave for the rest of the winter. Unless there is direct evidence that the vaccine causes miscarriages, or her previous miscarriages were scientifically verified to be attributed to the flu vaccine, she should have gotten it. Working in the health field with people with compromised immune systems, hey employer was putting their patients at risk by having them exposed to an unvaccinated person.


The article doesn’t say she was advised not to get immunized. It says that she reached the decision with her family, who were concerned about her multiple miscarriages.

She submitted to her employer letters of support from her OB and her primary care doc. However, those letters may have simply testified to her pregnancy and health history. Granted, the article is unclear.

The healthcare company she worked for provided infusion services in people’s homes. I don’t know if that makes a difference in terms of risk to patients.


I sincerely hope that someone gives this lady the name, address, and telephone number of the most savage lawyer in Philadelphia or New York City!!! The kind that picks the bones of his opponants after he destroys them and their families.


The medical advice of the CDC was that she get the vaccine. As a healthcare provider who has prescribed and administered over 1,000 of these immunizations this year, I can tell you that it is completely safe for pregnant and nursing mothers. In fact, one of my OB/GYN colleagues has been recommending that expectant mothers get the vaccine in order to confer antibodies to their children. We have to take a class every flu season on the new flu shot… this one is safe. That isn’t always the case. There have been times that they’ve instructed us not to administer to pregnant women, but this year the vaccine is safe.


I think that would be a little overkill. However, if others are allowed to opt out for religious reasons, then she should be able to opt out as well.


When I was in the Army I was made to get the flu shot every year and I got sick every year right after it. Everyone always says “Its impossible to get the flu from the flu shot” but I know I did. I think that nurse did the right thing. They don’t know half of what they think they know when it comes to that shot!


There’s no guarantee that getting the flu shot is going to prevent you from getting the flu. So whether or not you get the flu vaccine, you can get the flu and spread it to others. The pregnant nurse could still have gotten the flu and spread it to others even if she had gotten the flu shot. People, including healthcare workers, should not be forced to have to get injected with a vaccine that may or may not work.

The best way to prevent the spread of infection is to stay home when you are sick or, if you have to go out, say to a doctors appointment, to wear a mask and use proper hand hygiene. Healthcare workers who work in an inpatient setting should do the same. I’ve worked in healthcare (mostly inpatient) for 20 years and have never gotten the flu shot and have never gotten the flu during that whole time. I stay home when I am not feeling well and I follow proper isolation precautions.


Immunocompromised patients should already be on precautions to decrease the risk of them getting any kind of infection, viral or bacterial. That is standard procedure. If the flu shot is so effective at preventing the flu, then the immunocompromised patient should choose to get it (not be forced).

If it were 100% (or even 98%) effective at preventing the flu, I would be all for requiring people to get it, so as to eradicate that strain. However, it is not.

There is a flu outbreak every single year even though we have a vaccine and I am not convinced it is because people are not getting vaccinated.


I agree. It does appear that some were able to opt out and that there was a protocol for them to follow (mask, etc.) if they did. If that is the case, than she should have been given the same accomodation.


Speaking as someone who just spent 7 days in the hospital from having influenza, I think it is wise to get the flu shot. I did not, not because I am adverse to it, but I just procrastinated. Procrastinated too long.

It attacked my respiratory system and within 24 hours, I could not walk across the room, or speak a complete sentence due to shortness of breath. After about 4 days on high flow oxygen, I “turned the corner” and recovered in a couple of days.

So unless it can be proven that the flu shot is dangerous to pregnant women, I think it is imperative that all health care workers be vaccinated. Flu is not just a cold, it is a disease to be reckoned with.


I don’t get vaccinated and never will…but then I don’t work in a hospital. I also go to a Chiropractor. I haven’t had the Flu in about 10 years (just bad head colds on occasion)

The best thing to do to prevent the flu is to keep your immune system healthy - drink plenty of water, take daily Vitamin C and wash hands regularly, especially if you have been out in public.

I think wearing a mask and maybe gloves would have been fine.


Here is some additional information from the local newspaper:

Dr. Alan Peterson, the director of environmental and community medicine at Lancaster General Health…says pregnancy changes the immune system, and a case of the flu can pose a severe threat to mother and unborn child. That’s why organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend flu shots for most pregnant women.

Breton says she explained her flu shot reservations to her employer, and also provided a doctor’s note which described her history of miscarriage. The doctor wrote, “In my view getting the flu shot would significantly and negatively impact her health because of the increased fear and anxiety it would create as well as the emotional impact it could cause if she does miscarry again.”

Carolyn Carlson, a registered nurse and the president of Horizon, said in an email that requests for exemptions are reviewed by a committee of doctors.

A couple other important mentions:
Lancaster General Health (Dr Peterson’s hospital) is one of several area hospitals which co-own Horizon Healthcare Services (the company which fired Dreonna Breton)

Sanofi Pasteur, the maker of the vaccine in question, stated that results of clinical studies involving pregnant women weren’™t included in the research presented decades ago when flu vaccine received government approval. That is why the package insert had the caution which caused Breton to become concerned.


The vaccine isn’t intended to prevent ALL flu strains… that would be impossible. It instead greatly decreases the chance that you will contract the most dangerous strains for that year… that’s why they are different every year. There is no reason other than medical contraindications like allergies that a healthcare worker should be permitted to refuse the vaccine while continuing to work in patient care. If they have a religious objection, they should be placed in an administrative position that does not involve patient care during the flu season. As a healthcare provider I recognize that our first concern should be our patients. If you have an objection to one of the measures made to protect our patients, you should voluntarily step away from patient care until the danger subsides. Nosocomial infection rates are alarmingly high. This is something that every healthcare professional should be striving to change. While a young, healthy person may be able to fight off the flu in a few days, our patients are not always young or healthy. When you couple that fact with the fact that healthcare professional are generally horrible patients, who tend to ignore the symptoms of illness in themselves for as long as possible, the chances of nosocomial infection is even higher during flu season.


You must have missed the part where the hospital already has a system in place for those who can’t get the shot- “Breton offered to wear a face mask at work, a practice that is used if employees are exempted for religious reasons. The hospital did not approve, according to Breton.”


Same here.


Which counts more, the generalized advice of the CDC, your professional experience, or the opinions of her treating doctors?

From the article in the OP- “The mother of one submitted letters from her obstetrician and primary care doctor supporting her decision.”


Flu vaccines are required at most hospitals around here. Employers have a right to require certain things of their employees. In order for them to be able to perform their duties without endangering themselves or others.

She made her choice.

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