Frank Rizzo | Democrat
John Breslin of Hankins, RNFA,operating room nurse at Catskill Regional Medical Center, is opposed state-mandated compulsory vaccinations.
Opposes vaccines, puts job on the line
By Frank Rizzo
HARRIS John Breslin of Hankins knows his job is on the line, but he’s willing to fight for what he believes are his civil rights.
The Catskill Regional Medical Center operating room nurse has started a petition at the hospital against mandatory seasonal and H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines imposed by the state.
The New York State Department of Health declared an emergency regulation on August 13, mandating that anyone working in health care facilities must receive the vaccinations by Nov. 30 or risk being fired.
The regulation applies to all personnel even students and volunteers “who have direct contact with patients or whose activities are such that they pose a risk of transmission of influenza to patients or to those who provide direct care to patients.”
The “primary purpose of this regulation is to protect the health and safety of vulnerable patients, whose risk of serious adverse effects from influenza is high,” read the letter to hospital administrators. “An added benefit is to maintain a healthy workforce during flu season.”
As of press time, New York was the only state with such a compulsory regulation, and the New York State Nurses Association has officially opposed the rule. A rally of health care workers against the measure is supposed to take place today in Albany.
Breslin, who first assists at surgeries, has both constitutional and medical objections to the mandatory vaccinations.
“We believe the state of New York forcing unwanted vaccines of any type on its citizens is an infringement of our civil rights and an unacceptable assault on our individual freedoms as Americans,” read his petition.
“The government should not be forcing this,” Breslin added in an interview, “Because if it works with us, they could do it to everyone else.”
He said that traditionally, only about 50 percent of hospital workers nationwide get seasonal flu shots, and they were voluntary in the past.
The DOH, in a “Frequently Asked Questions” publication, noted that “Influenza can be severe and cause death in persons with underlying medical conditions. There is a large body of evidence that health care workers can pose a risk to patients by transmitting influenza infection; this risk can be lessened significantly by health care worker vaccination. Voluntary vaccination programs of health care workers have not achieved high rates of coverage.”
The state allows exemptions only for those who would have adverse reactions to the vaccines.
Breslin is skeptical of the H1N1 vaccine, noting that it has been rushed through with insufficient testing (it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on September 15) and in effect, vaccine users this fall will be “guinea pigs.”
He is suspicious of the fact that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius granted immunity against liability to the vaccine’s manufacturers. Further, he believes that at least one ingredient in H1N1 squalene has been linked to symptoms of Gulf War syndrome.
“We hope [CRMC] CEO [Steve] Ruwoldt would stand up for us, and come out publicly against the the mandatory vaccinations,” Breslin added.
Ruwoldt said his hands are tied hospitals will be audited to make sure they comply, and face fines if they don’t. Besides, he believes in the regulations.
“We already have mandatory vaccinations for rubella, rubeola, measles, and tuberculosis,” Ruwoldt pointed out. “The [flu] vaccines should be in the same category.”
“Public health trumps individual rights,” Ruwoldt noted.
For his part Breslin, who has 20 years experience as RN and is a retired naval officer with 21 years in the Marine Corps, Nurses Corps and submarine service, hopes NYSDOH will reverse itself under pressure.
But whatever happens, come November 30, he will not have taken his mandatory shots.
“No one,” Breslin wrote in an unpublished letter to the editor, “should be threatened with complying to forced vaccination or lose their livelihood and their ability to provide for their family. This is, by definition, Fascism.”
Asked what will happen to his employees who do not comply, Ruwoldt responded in an e-mail, “We hope it will not come to their decision to end their employment with us by not taking the mandatory vaccines by November 30. We are setting up a number of educational meetings to give our employees the facts about the vaccines and try to allay any fears they may have. I got my shot [on Sept. 24]. Personally, I believe that employees working in hospitals and clinics should get vaccinated. If this flu is as bad as predicted who will take care of the ill? And while we take care of the ill we do not want to spread the flu to other sick patients that do not have the flu. That is the same reasoning for the mandatory rubella, rubeola, measles, and TB vaccines.”