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You want to refuse a flu shot? Welcome to the epidemic!

I cradled a very sick child with the flu in my arms this week and asked why the mother had insisted on her child NOT being vaccinated with the flu vaccine a month earlier. “It’s my right,” the mother replied.

The Texas (where I live) Department of State Health Services reported nearly 10,000 flu and pneumonia-related deaths duringthe last flu season.This is a spike of nearly 27% above of the previous year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 80% of the children who died nationally were unimmunized or under-immunized. Since the flu season in Texas peaks between December through February, those of us in the caring professions are getting ready for the onslaught. How many more deaths do we need in 2019? Does this mother really realize the danger confronting her child?

I am getting tired of the lame tactics, rhetoric and politics aimed at swaying public opinion on the dangers of vaccines, while the innocent get infected and needlessly die from preventable illnesses, like the flu. Although the CDC reports low flu activity so far, the first pediatric death occurred this week. In Texas, the “opt-out” of vaccine policy is hurting all of us. It’s time to change that stance.

Why do we debate the issue of getting flu shots? Are we all scientists who can intelligently counter the current evidence base about the importance of community immunity? Does the opinion of the few outweigh the science base of the best researchers on the planet?

About 40% of the children in the State of Texas have parents who opt out of vaccine administration of any kind, yet they are permitted to attend school. The Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §97.62 describes conditions under which individuals can seek exemptions from Texas immunization requirements. The policy provides for exclusions from compliance based on medical contraindications, active duty with the armed forces of the United States, and reasons of conscience, including a religious belief.

As a nurse and a military veteran, I am trying to understand the debate. The exclusions as written seem reasonable. But taken to the extreme as in the current situation appears archaic. Opt out of immunizing your children? Why? Is the opinion base stronger than the evidence base? We need to see vaccination as a civic duty as well as an individual mandate to try to stay healthy. It’s all based on the concept of “herd immunity”, which I had never “heard” of until I studied the concept of immunity as a nursing student.

Herd immunity is based on the public health concept that the more people who are protected, the less likely the virus will spread and the fewer people will get sick and eventually die from the disease. We’ve now broken the track record on the value of flu vaccination and the concept of herd immunity because of the number of people who can opt out, at least in the State of Texas.

The reality is that flu comes every year. We can’t stop it. Either we are prepared or we’re not. But the new “anti-vaccer’s” voices, the group of vaccine protestors who say no to vaccines, are making their statements heard.

It’s time we put public policy and science ahead of rhetoric and opinion. The State of Texas needs to overturn the current vaccine opt-out stance for all vaccines, not just the flu vaccine, and legislate that to protect the public, all children must present documentation of current immunization status prior to being admitted to school.

How bad will the next flu season be? I don’t know. Neither do you.

I do know that I don’t want one more child compromised by the flu, or measles, or any other preventative disease. The power of positive change, the power to save lives, and the power to change vaccination policies is in our hands. Let’s get on with it and let science be our guide. Let’s step up and change the current state policy. Our children deserve nothing less.


Lillee Gelinas is editor-in-chief for American Nurse Today.

Selected references

Ackerman T. Flu killed nearly 10,000 Texans in 2017-2018. San Antonio Express News.June 27, 2017. expressnews.com/news/local/article/Flu-killed-nearly-10-000-Texans-in-2017-2018-13028706.php

American Nurses Association. Position Statement on Immunizations. 2015. nursingworld.org/practice-policy/nursing-excellence/official-position-statements/id/immunizations/

Garten R, Blanton L, Elal AIA, et al. Update: Influenza activity in the United States during the 2017-18 season and composition of the 2018-19 influenza vaccine. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018;67(22):634-42.

Texas Department of State Health Services. Exemption information—School immunizations. January 8, 2018. dshs.texas.gov/immunize/school/exemptions.aspx

The views and opinions expressed by Perspectives contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

17 Comments. Leave new

  • when you say “10,000 flu and pneumonia related deaths,” how many can you confidently point to flu virus specifically?

  • My DNA is mine and only mine… …lets just see what vaccinations have done for the HERD! Oh wait YOUR HERD is sick and dying shall we list all the side effects that this medicine or any medicine has. You say……But only 1 died from the side effects. You somehow justify that the 1 dyes for the HERD.
    Let me ask you…. If YOU / YOUR CHILD dyed from the vaccinations or If YOU / YOUR CHILD just came down with a brain disorder from the vaccinations.
    I am not so sure you would cry out “FOR THE HERD!”. You are asking each person to lay down there life for the HERD.
    WITH ALL YOUR Scientific facts … HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN FACTS and HOW DO WE know when the testing is LONG enough!
    ONE WORD “Antibiotics” The greatest thing on earth is not what is being said today. Pain Killers of any kind….not the greatest thing on earth……
    I ASK you what is next!. SIGNED, NEVER HAD ANY VACCINATIONS! and you can keep your school system too! it was Designed for THE HERD!

    • Anna,

      Not only is your post confusing and extremely hard to follow, but you may want to think of what you are actually saying. You offer no evidence to support your stance, mearly the opinion that tries to devalue the claim of vaccinations value on the heard. Give me an example of anyone who has died or resulted in a brain disorder from the vaccine, because as you tried to quote that “You say….. but only 1 died from the side effects.” I don’t see anywhere did the nurse say that only one died from the vaccine.

      Next time you post a comment, you may want to proof read it not only for grammar, but for clarity. Your post offers nothing of value, but instead is a black hole whom absorbs value and intelligence leaving the reader devalued and dumber.

      • So how is it that I haven’t taken a flu shot for about 25 years and have never once gotten flu in that timespan? Please don’t come back with I’m lucky or I have a healthy immune system, the people in my life that take the flu shot every year are always the ones that are sick when the flu season comes around the next year. Must be dumb luck.

    • Antibiotics do not treat viruses.

  • If you are worked about influenza then get the shot. If it works, you need not worry about whether anyone else takes it. If it doesn’t…. You do you and let everyone else make their own decisions.

  • Sherry L. l read your post and l so impressed. The same thing happened to me. My husband had to take me to the emergency room and was admitted for 3 days. After that, some health agency let you refuse taken flu shot. I just got hired in my new job and they want me to bring doctor medical exemption letter from my doctor. I don’t know any doctor l can get it from. This job is very good and l might lose it for because of this situation. Do anyone know any doctor l can call in Illinois to exempt me or maybe in another state? I am a Nursing Assistant.

  • Dwight Hasbrouck
    October 11, 2019 5:48 pm

    If one believes that pigs can fly they are in the same class as Flu shot junkies

  • Please please please stop!!! Flu shots are toxic and it’s not because it’s on Facebook. Do your own research. Do not put poison in your bodies. I’ve seen more doctors and nurses so brain washed with misleading education it’s ridiculous. One day hopefully even those in the medical profession wise up because I did after 25 years believing all the nonsense taught to me.

    • It’s ridiculous! It’s supposed to protect you from 3 or 4 strains but there are hundreds of strains?? I’m ok. Must explain why the one person in my household of 5 who got the shot was the ONLY person who was diagnosed with the FLU strain A in my house! Haha! No thanks I will pass on the vaccine….

  • I’m a practicing nurse in Pennsylvania and fortunately, my neurologist has provided me with a medical exemption from getting the flu vaccine, or I would not be able to continue working at my job in a local hospital. It really should be a person’s right as to whether or not he or she wishes to have “unknown poisons” injected into their body. I am 61 years old now and the last time I had the flu was back in 1989. Yes, I was sick for about four (4) days running a fever and lethargic, but I fought it off with my own immunity. I was too ill to get in the car and drive to the doctor’s office, or any local emergency room. I don’t even know if I ever had a flu shot when I was a child, but if I had a child today I seriously would be hesitant in letting that child or children be immunized with such “poison”. I truly feel that I would rather die from the effects of the flu, than the effects of the “unknown poisons” people will allow to enter their bodies. I know of a fellow nurse who delivered a stillborn baby only three days after being vaccinated for the flu. How sad! All because her hospital nursing job demanded that she be vaccinated in order to keep her job. She to this day does not believe it was from the flu shot. However, only 18 months later God gave her beautiful twin babies to compensate for her loss. Get smart, people! Stop letting the government, pharmaceuticals, or your doctor(s) dictate what should and should not be entering your body. It’s your body, not theirs!!

  • Last year the flu shot did NOT work in Texas. Just in my small circle of friends at a Christmas party where there was 1 sick baby, 27 people out of 30 got the flu, (some A some B) and 2 were hospitalized due to complications. I’m sure there were a lot of hospitalizations and deaths statewide. It’s a gamble every year on the vaccine.
    Public health is an issue, but legislating it is quite another. We do live in a free country.

  • As demointrated in INDEPENDENT studies the fl;u vaccines has NO influemce on morbidity and mortality in the case of flu virus infection (read Mercola on this issue)
    Furthermore, IF one gets the vaccine and gets the flu later (as likely as if nopt “immuzied”) he/she will get MUCH sicker…
    The flu vaccine is a scam designe to make money!
    The flu can be treated to reduce the amount of time you will suffer with:|
    Esssential oils ORALLY
    high dose vit A (100,000 units for 3 days)
    Flu buster (an herbal product sold in Ca)
    Echinacea, Osha, Usnea extracts combined with back cupping if back soreness
    Fever induced by a warm tea IN ADDITION follwed by rest in bed
    Oscillococcinum and influenzinum where avail are [preventive
    High dose Vit C
    Good luck with the scam!

  • The statistical information provided in this article “…reported nearly 10,000 flu and pneumonia-related deaths during the last flu season” is a newspaper reference? Texas Department of State Health Services seems to give by far, way less numbers.

  • Debi Blank, RN
    December 5, 2018 11:09 am

    I live & practice school nursing in a state that allows parents to “opt out” of vaccinations for most of the same reasons as Texas; medical, philosophical and religious. In order to cut down on the numbers of “convenience” exemptions, parents are required to submit exemption statements every year. The same is true for medical exemptions, the thought here is that medical conditions change. In our state the flu vaccine is not required. Recently vaccines were added to the mandatory list for students entering 7th & 11th grades and its been a bear getting parents to take the rule seriously. Over the course of 37 years in the trenches I’ve probably heard almost every reason not to vaccinate a child from vaccines causing Autism to “I think its cruel to stick pins in little children.” Neither of which bear up under scientific scrutinity. The Autism connection is unproven and being old enough to have had some of those “Childhood diseases,” I wish my parents had the opportunity to have been so cruel as to stick pins in me. And I never had the really devastating diseases or life-long effects that accompanied many of these diseases.

  • Tambra, you have no scientific basis for your comments and opinion. You are just regurgitating things you have read on Facebook. I’m sure your “other prevention methods” are essential oils and voodoo curses. I really hope you aren’t a practicing nurse.

  • If your child is vaccinated and gets near an unvaccinated child with the flu, your kid’s ‘supposedly protected’. Also, the flu shot did little to ward off the flu from vaccinated kids last year, and there are dangers from the flu shot, so needlessly exposing them to it is NOT a good option when washing hands, taking vitamin C and other prevention methods work about the same, worh NO side affects.


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