An Indiana hospital has fired eight workers for refusing to get the flu shot, which the hospital says is protocol. The ordeal has sparked debate about whether the flu shot is necessary and whether the hospital was out of bounds in requiring the shot.
According to Fox News, there is a religious exemption clause that would allow workers to refuse the shot. All eight workers went before a committee to claim that the shot was against their religious beliefs but were turned down and told they should either receive the vaccine or leave.
"This is my body. I have a right to refuse the flu vaccine," nurse Ethel Hoover told ABC News. "For 21 years I have religiously not taken the flu vaccine, and now you're telling me that I believe in it."
Hoover was let go from her position in the critical care unit on Dec. 21, just six days after the deadline to receive the shot passed. She had filed not only the religious exemption appeal, but also two medical exemptions and later, two appeals. The hospital refused all of them and after nearly 22 years, Hoover was sent packing.
"If it were religious beliefs as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, they would not have been terminated," hospital spokeswoman Melanie McDonald told WSBT News. "Sometimes there can be a little bit of gray area and people who have very personally held beliefs will present those as religious opportunities for exemption."
"It was a good place to work. We've worked together all these years. We're like a family," Hoover said.
Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital defended its actions, stating that it implemented the mandate after recommendations from several prominent organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"IU Health's top priority is the health and wellbeing of our patients. Participation in the annual Influenza Patient Safety Program is a condition of employment with IU Health for the health and safety of the patients that we serve, and is therefore required," IU spokeswoman Whitney Ertel told ABC.
The hospital's mandate is meant to prevent workers from accidentally infecting patients with lower or weakened immune systems. Yet many of the nurses questioned whether the flu vaccine actually did anyone any good.
"I just feel like it's a toxin that I don't want in my body," hospice nurse Sue Schrock told WSBT. "There are side effects with that. There are no guarantees that it's even going to protect you."
Some of the terminated workers have filed a lawsuit alleging that their civil rights were infringed upon.