What is a “Nurse Against Mandatory Vaccines”?

Surgeons against mandatory time-outs.

Aerospace engineers against mandatory pre-flight safety checks.

Animal Rights Activists Against Mandatory Spaying and Neutering.

Okay, that last one might actually exist. The first one results in the wrong limb being amputated. The second results in the Challenger Disaster. Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines (NAMV) is going to result in people losing their jobs, and possibly result in the death of patients.

According to the Google, “Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines was formed to help healthcare workers and other working adults avoid and speak out against forced and mandatory …” (the preview ends there, and I cannot find  those words repeated elsewhere). NAMV had a website, (which appears to be down, but NAMV has a blog that is still active) where “Members pay a $20 yearly membership fee.”  NAMV raised $644 selling t-shirts . NAMV also has a Facebook page that makes for interesting late night reading, especially if you support science based medicine.

As a RN I was disturbed by “Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines,” as anti-intellectualism in nursing is deeply troubling to me. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I went to the Facebook page and what I found was far worse than nurses who do not want to be told what to do. There is dangerous propaganda on that page and I believe it violates the “Nursing Code of Ethics,” specifically:

“Provision 2: The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community…

Provision 3: The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.” (ANA, 2001)

So what did I do? I found out who was running NAMV and sent her a message. I explained my concerns, particularly the violations of The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, with specific examples from the Facebook page. She banned me from the Facebook page, blocked me on Twitter, and started scrubbing her affiliation with NAMV from the internet. This was over a year ago.

Why am I bringing this up now? It is another flu season, and another chance for NAMV to get free publicity, as they did last year when I first became aware of the group. I have seen healthcare workers proudly sporting their refusal to get the flu vaccine on the page. The 2015 campaign is hash-tagged #showmeyourmask. It is a brilliant piece of propaganda, because it is impossible to claim these healthcare workers are endangering patients. After all, they are wearing their mask.

The woman behind this group had a blog that was linked from the Facebook page. That has since been scrubbed, but her status as founder and CEO of NAMV is still available online. This is the person in charge of NAMV. I first noticed that she has not been a nurse for very long, receiving her Associate degree in 2010 after a year at Excelsior. Thereafter she went to Western Governors University, and received her BSN in 2011. She obtained Her MSN from the same institution in 2012. She then attended Kaplan University with the expectation of graduating and an “Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner” in 2015, before switching to Touro University Nevada for her Doctorate in Nursing Practice.

I wondered, how many years of experience does she have working on the floor as a nurse in an acute care setting? What was her specialty? Did she ever see patients on oscillating vents or nitrous due to influenza? I noticed that she was a LPN (license #4703103254) before she became a RN (License #4704282245). I was wondering what she did while taking all those online classes, before becoming an entrepreneur, selling T-shirts. Therefore, I looked up her work history.

She has been a Director of Nursing Education for CHE Trinity Health (2013-2014), a Case Manager for Hospice of Michigan (2012-2013), worked for Spectrum Health at an Urgent care clinic (2012), and worked “with the public inebriate program of Grand Rapids” for Mel Trotter Ministries (2011-2012). She worked for project Rehab (2010-2011) and was a LPN at the Salvation Army (2009-2010). It appears she also worked in Long Term Care, both as a CNA and LPN from 2004 – 2008.

So What? Other social media users regularly advocate against not only the influenza vaccine, but against childhood immunizations as well. They use their professional titles to spread misinformation and pseudoscience, resulting in decreased rates of immunization and increased chances of morbidity and mortality due to preventable disease.

I think it will take more than traditional public health models to combat this misinformation, since traditional models do not include the epidemiological view of social media. In this age, ideas go viral. This results in actual cases of disease transmission, as we have recently seen with pertussis and measles (Leask, 2011; Poland, & Jacobson, 2011; Salathe, & Khandelwal, 2011; ).

A woman with no acute care experience whatsoever heads the organization known as Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines. She has been a registered nurse for less than five years. Meanwhile I have been working in the Intensive Care Unit seeing people die of influenza. It took me three years to obtain my Associates Degree over ten years ago (degree requirements). It took two more years to obtain my BSN at a State University. It took three years to obtain my Masters degree from the same university. The whole time I was employed full time as a Registered Nurse in an acute care hospital. I worked there for eight long years.

There are numerous well-researched evidence-based articles regarding the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine. There are also valid reasons why healthcare providers should be vaccinated (Crislip, 2014; Cortes-Penfield,2014). The Facebook page “Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines” is perpetuating myths, and silencing critics. This is not professional behavior.

There are physicians doing this as well. have “Doctor Bob” Spears, “Doctor” Gordon, and various other “Doctors” (Reiss, 2015; Tracy, 2015; Lah, & Brumfield, 2015) going on major media outlets, which purport to present the “other side” of the vaccine “argument.” The science says there is no other side and there is no argument (I could develop and cite this thesis but it would be a dissertation- for my Doctorate).

We, as nurses, are used to  advocating for our patients. We need to start doing it publicly (Orac, 2015). We also need to hold our colleagues responsible for spreading misinformation. I once worked with a nurse who said she was not getting the flu shot because she did not want to “put all those chemicals in her body.” I do not work with her anymore, but I wish I had said something when I had the chance. Crislip, (2014) or this (if you do not have a subscription to Medscape) is a good start. I got my first flu shot after realizing that I was one of those to whom Crislip was referring.

American Nurses Association. (2001).Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretative Statements.  (2010, November 15).  Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association. Available from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/EthicsStandards/CodeofEthicsforNurses/Code-of-Ethics.pdf

Cortes-Penfield, N. (2014). Mandatory influenza vaccination for health care workers as the new standard of care: A matter of patient safety and nonmaleficent practice. American Journal of Public Health, 104(11), 2060-2065.

Crislip, M. (2014, October 6). Budget of Dumb Asses: 2014 Edition. Medscape. Retrieved from http://boards.medscape.com/forums/?128@@.2a794c48!comment=1

Lah, K. & Brumfield, B. (5 February, 2015). Anti-vaccine doctor Jack Wolfson goes silent. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/05/health/anti-vaccine-doctor-jack-wolfson/

Leask, J. (2011). Target the fence-sitters. NATURE, 473(7348), 443-445.

Orac. (2015, January 27). Quoth Katie Tietje: Stop being mean to non-vaccinators!. Respectful Insolence. Retrieved from http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/01/27/quoth-katie-tietje-pro-vaxers-are-so-mean/

Poland, G. , & Jacobson, R. (2011). The age-old struggle against the antivaccinationists. The New England Journal of Medicine, 364(2), 97-99. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp1010594

Reiss, D.R. (2015, January 18). Dr. Robert Sears misleads parents about measles and vaccines. Skeptical Raptor. Retrieved from http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/dr-robert-sears-misleads-parents-measles-vaccines/

Salathe, M. , & Khandelwal, S. (2011). Assessing vaccination sentiments with online social media: Implications for infectious disease dynamics and control. Plos Computational Biology, 7(10), e1002199-e1002196. Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002199

Tracy, B. (2015, January 27). Doctor explains why he lets kids avoid the measles vaccine. CBS Evening News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/doctor-explains-why-he-lets-kids-avoid-the-measles-vaccine/