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As a firefighter/paramedic, I'm embarrassed over the scene being created by health care workers (including nurses, medics, and firefighters) refusing flu vaccination. The consequences are serious: they cast public doubt over the best tactic we have to prevent spread of influenza in our communities. Vaccines have slashed death rates from twenty five diseases. Get a flu shot in the fall and you are half as likely to die during winter as people who don’t. When physicians, nurses, medics, and firefighters get flu vaccines, their patients are also less likely to die.

Flu is serious – it kills more than 36,000 Americans every year, the majority of victims over 65 years old. The H1N1 virus causes relatively mild illness in healthy adults but threatens the lives of the very young and weak. It is a robust virus that spread worldwide like wildfire and never went away. It is now a pandemic, and H1N1 shows every indication that it is here for the winter, if not longer. We have no better public health tool than vaccination to protect our children and each other.

So is there danger in the vaccine? Not at all. The danger is in unvaccinated people, and especially unvaccinated health care workers. While firefighters and paramedics are less likely than their patients to get sick with the flu, they readily carry the virus to others, infecting vulnerable patients as well as their own friends and families.

Firefighters are not just inhabitants of their communities; they are public role models. We have a moral and ethical duty to make responsible choices and act with the understanding that others are watching. Lives are on the line in your home and in the communities you serve.

Mike McEvoy
EMS Editor
Fire Engineering

Views: 317


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Comment by Donald Gibson on October 29, 2009 at 11:04pm
"So is there danger in the vaccine? Not at all."

I would humbly disagree with that staement...and I'm not alone. There have been reports of 5 people in Europe that have died after receiving the H1N1 vaccination. Whether the vaccination was to blame or not is unconfirmed. Most European vaccines use adjuvants, many of which have not been clinically tested on humans.

Thimerosal is used as a preservative in the H1N1 vaccine. Thimerosal, which contains ethyl mercury, has been used as an additive to biologics and vaccines since the 1930s because it is effective in preventing bacterial and fungal contamination, particularly in multidose containers. Thimerosal has been linked to various neurologic disorders and to autism. Most vaccines made for young children and infants no longer contain Thimerosal due to the risk it why is it considered safe for adults?

Most of the European countries, as well as Russia and Japan, banned Thimerosal in the 1980's. This week, California temporarily suspended its ban on thimerosal in vaccines to allow distribution of the H1N1 vaccine. Is the risk of H1N1 greater than the risk of Thimerosal? Apparently so.

My hope is that in the rush to get this vaccination out to address the swine flu panedemic, the debacle that resulted from the 1976 influenza immunization program will not repeat itself. More people died from that vaccination than from the influenza itself, and more than 500 people developed Guillain-Barre' syndrome as a result of the vaccination.

As health-care providers, we strive to protect the public from disease transmission. However, as we're taught from day one, the most important person to protect from harm is ourselves. If an individual believes that there is absolutely no risk in taking the vaccination, as Mr. McEvoy does, the action should be clear.

For me, I'm not so sure.
Comment by Lynn Yeater on October 29, 2009 at 10:23am
The company line indeed. Being over 49, I can't get a shot locally because the Health dept only wants to pass out flu mist. I am out of luck as is 50% of my workforce. No priority for health care workers here! With a local population of 23,000, the HD ordered 1700 seasonal flu shots. We can't get one of those if we do want it. This whole thing is just another typical government *****-up.
Comment by Rich Duffy on October 28, 2009 at 5:10pm
The IAFF continues to advise our members to be aware of and take the necessary precautions, including strict adherence to infection control procedures, for responding safely and effectively to an H1N1 flu outbreak, and strongly urges our members to be vaccinated against both seasonal and H1N1. Our position has not wavered, as we want to protect the health of our members (and their families and co-workers) as well as to maintain fire and EMS department deployment capability.

It has now been well established that both H1N1 vaccines are safe, and are produced in the exact same way as the seasonal flu vaccination. Inactivated 2009 H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same time as any other vaccine, including pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Live 2009 H1N1 vaccine (nasal mist) can also be administered at the same time as any other live or inactivated vaccine except seasonal live attenuated influenza vaccine. There is also an age limitation on nasal mist for individuals under 50, but anyone 50 and over need to get the inactivated vaccine.

It is the federal government’s position that first responders be provided the H1N1 vaccination in the first tier. This includes fire fighters in all capacities (first responders, EMTs, paramedics) who will be responding to emergencies, including medical calls, during this pandemic.

Being in this first tier will help protect all fire fighters and EMS personnel with critical skills, experience or licensure status whose absence in their community would create bottlenecks or collapse of critical function. The US Department of Homeland Security supports this vaccination effort of all fire fighters and has already calculated that Emergency Services Sector first responders include law enforcement, fire fighters and emergency medical services (EMTs and paramedics). In Canada, prioritization of H1N1 vaccine is governed partially by the federal government guidelines found at; however at least one provincial government has now prioritized fire fighters as tier one for vaccination.

We would hope that the fire service reviews the tools that the IAFF maintains on this issue, which can be found on our website at: .
Comment by Cody S. Anderson on October 28, 2009 at 5:05pm
Sorry to cause you the embarrasment. You've got the official argument down pat for mass public immunization. I have to agree with Rick LePage and Robert Borer. I hope getting immunized remains a personal medical decision. I like the idea of my medical decisions being made by me, after consulting with my doctor.
Comment by Rick LePage on October 28, 2009 at 4:40pm
Condemning those who refuse vaccination without knowing medical history/allergies is unprofessional.

Representing the vaccine as without risk is to ignore the warnings of the CDC and past history of vaccinations.

Demanding blind obedience to vaccinations is not being a role model for your community. Making an informed decision based on individual circumstances knowing both risks and benefits of a vaccination is being a role model.

Quarantine works, history of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 proves that. So, if you're sick, stay home.
Comment by Robert Borer on October 28, 2009 at 4:25pm

What proof do you have for this statement: "Vaccines have slashed death rates from twenty five diseases"...or, for any of the other fear-mongering statements you made?

I do hope you're right about one thing. I hope all those who are refusing vaccinations are in fact casting public doubt on a tactic that is dubious at best and harmful at worst (but certainly making someone a lot of money - not that that's bad, per se).

Congrats to everyone who is thinking for him/herself.

Comment by Billy Goldfeder on October 28, 2009 at 4:16pm
Outstanding-right on target Mike.
Billy G

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