- Dreonna Breton from Pennsylvania, became alarmed after the packaging for a number of major brands of the flu vaccine warned it ‘should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed
- She showed no symptoms of having the flu and has suffered two miscarriages in four pregnancies so rejected the vaccine
- But because the shot is compulsory for all staff at her workplace, Horizon Healthcare Services, was told to leave
- It’s common for hospitals to enforce mandatory flu shots in an effort to prevent staff spreading the bug to patients but they often allow exemptions for religious or medical reasons
By Helen Pow
PUBLISHED: 19:20 EST, 22 December 2013
A pregnant nurse in Pennsylvania has been fired after she refused a mandatory flu shot to protect her unborn baby.
Dreonna Breton, 29, learned she was pregnant with her second child in October, a month before all staff at her Lancaster employer, Horizon Healthcare Services, were required to have had a compulsory flu shot.
But she became alarmed after the packaging for a number of major brands of the vaccine warned it ‘should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed,’ and other notifications highlighted that it’s unclear whether the shot can harm an unborn child.
She showed no symptoms of having the flu and having suffered two miscarriages since her son, Westen, was born 18 months ago, she didn’t want to take the chance so rejected the vaccine. But she was subsequently told to leave.
Breton was a home care nurse infusion nurse who went home to home providing services such as IV drips and tube feeds for patients.
Her employer was Lancaster General Hospital, who she had worked for them since 2008 in a number of divisions but in April this year she started at Horizon, which the hospital part owns.
‘I found out I was pregnant end of October and immediately went to my HR person and told her the situation because I knew they had brought in mandatory flu vaccinations,’ she told MailOnline.
‘I honestly didn’t think it was going to be a problem but i was immediately met with the resistance that if i didn’t take it by the November 15 deadline I would be terminated.’
She offered to wear a mask to work instead, which is what someone exempt on religious grounds does.
But they told her they needed to see a note from her obstetrician, she said.
‘She wrote me a letter explaining that the vaccines are have not been tested on pregnant women and because I have had precious miscarriages she didn’t feel comfortable me having it,’ Breton said.
But she was told the note wasn’t acceptable because it was from a midwife not a doctor. Because she doesn’t have a family doctor, she went to a physician friend who was less familiar with the situation and he wrote a note recommending she be allowed to not have the vaccine for anxiety reasons.
His note read: ‘In my view, getting the flu shot would significantly and negatively impact (Breton’s) 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.’
A week or two weeks later she heard back.
‘They said I didn’t provide a medical reason so I was suspended and I had five days to have the shot or I would be terminated,’ she said.
Breton said the fact religious objections are allowed and her concerns were rejected was what angered her the most.
‘This is important to me for the reasons it’s important to me. I feel I have a legitimate concern. I asked several doctors what happens to the fetus, or do we even know what happens and they can’t answer because the study hasn’t been done,’ she said.
‘I have taken care of patients who have become paralyzed after having the shot and if that can happen to a full grown person who knows what can happen to a growing fetus.’
In a statement, Horizon’s president, Carolyn Carlson, told Pennlive.com that a flu vaccination is a condition of employment because it ‘protects our patients, employees, and community from getting this potentially serious infection.’
Vaccine: It’s common practice for hospitals and medical centers to enforce mandatory flu shots in an effort to prevent staff spreading the bug to patients whose immune systems are weak
She said any exemptions are reviewed by a committee of doctors.
Most hospitals or nursing homes allow exceptions for religious or medical reasons such as allergic reactions.
More and more hospitals and medical centers are enforcing mandatory flu shots to prevent staff spreading the bug to patients whose immune systems are weak.
Despite the warnings on the packaging, Lancaster General Health environmental and community medicine director Dr. Alan Peterson believes flu shots are highly beneficial to pregnant women.
He told Pennlive.com, catching the flu is a far greater danger.
‘I would say she has a million times greater chance of of having a problem if she gets the disease rather than the vaccine,’ Petersen said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend flu shots for most pregnant women.
A spokeswoman for Fluzone, a popular brand that warns pregnant women against taking the vaccine, said results of clinical studies involving pregnant women weren’t included in the research presented when many of the flu vaccine manufacturers received government approval a decade ago. Because of that, they can’t state that the shot is safe for expectant mothers.