In an injection of common sense, judge ends nurse’s lawsuit over mandatory flu shot [editorial] | Our opinion

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THE PROBLEM

“Former Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health nurse fired for refusing flu shot loses religious discrimination lawsuit,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Dan Nephin reported on Saturday. “In dismissing Shyanne Aukamp-Corcoran’s lawsuit last month, a federal judge rejected her claim that her Christianity led to her opposition and said no reasonable jury would find she had a sincere religious objection. Aukamp-Corcoran’s attorney is asking for a reconsideration, arguing that the case should go to a jury because it’s not up to a judge to assess the credibility of witnesses.

The phenomenon of people doing their own research on vaccinations has proven to be a plague in recent years.

Decision-making based on misinformation on the internet has led to the terrible resurgence of childhood diseases such as measles. To the tragedy of unvaccinated people dying of COVID-19. And to the decline of the belief that we must fight vaccine-preventable diseases by protecting not only ourselves but each other.

Incredibly, in this case, a licensed practical nurse put her own flawed “research” ahead of the health of the patients she was likely to come into contact with. In firing her for refusing to get a flu shot, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health was acting out of concern for these patients and this licensed practical nurse’s co-workers.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep stressing it: if you want to be employed as a healthcare worker in a medical facility – a place full of sick people who can’t afford to be sick – you need to be vaccinated against infectious diseases. It’s just a matter of common sense. What good is a healthcare worker who cannot be safely in the same room as a medically fragile patient?

We would believe that regardless of the circumstances of a particular trial. But in this case, the judge’s appeal was not even difficult.

Aukamp-Corcoran had maintained that she “believes that her religion requires her to keep her body clean from anything that contaminates the body and the mind,” including vaccines.

But the senior pastor at the church she attended told LNP | LancasterOnline in a 2019 email that the Brethren in Christ denomination, of which the church is a part, “does not have an official position or statement on flu shots.”

With the exception of a few faith-healing Christian denominations, most religions have no theological objections to vaccinations, according to research from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Aukamp-Corcoran had been vaccinated against the flu between 2012 and 2016, as required by his employer. But she said she started researching vaccination “from a medical perspective” in 2017 after she suffered a miscarriage and became pregnant again.

She asked her midwife and doctor to sign a medical waiver for her; they both declined, likely because they know that, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website explains, changes “to the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make people more susceptible influenza severe enough to cause hospitalization throughout pregnancy and up to two weeks after delivery. The flu can also be harmful to the developing baby.

Aukamp-Corcoran therefore posted about his vaccine situation on a sketchy vaccine “re-education” forum that has since been shut down by Facebook. Members of this group advised him to apply for a religious exemption.

No wonder that in his February 17 opinion, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmehl found the timing and circumstances of the plaintiff’s request for a religious exemption to Lancaster General Health’s vaccine requirement to be “suspicious” and indicative of a “lack of sincerity in one’s religion”. beliefs.”

He noted that she “only asked for a religious exemption after unsuccessfully asking her midwife and doctor for a medical exemption from the vaccination requirement”.

In concluding that Aukamp-Corcoran’s religious claims were insincere, Schmehl agreed with Lancaster General Health’s assertion that his tattoos and piercings did not match his assertion that the Bible obliged to keep his blood “pure”. And the judge rightly rejected Aukamp-Corcoran’s argument that granting him an exemption would not constitute an “undue hardship” on the health care system.

Schmehl’s opinion quoted vaccine expert Daniel Salmon of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who said that any exemption, for whatever reason, weakens the health system’s ability to protect patients. against the flu. Because certain medical exemptions are necessary, Lancaster General Health must limit religious exemptions only to those who demonstrate an established right to receive them. Otherwise, Salmon noted, immunity is reduced within the healthcare system, which can lead to the spread of influenza in healthcare system settings.

According to a 2010 article in a US government health journal, health care workers “who have direct contact with patients exhibit the primary source of infectious disease outbreaks” in healthcare facilities. (The italics are ours.)

The article continued: “Patients are at increased risk of illness when treated by (healthcare workers) who have been exposed to influenza.”

And he noted that flu vaccination “can reduce morbidity by 70% to 90%, making it the most effective method of preventing transmission of the virus.”

People aged 65 and over are particularly at risk of dying from the flu. As Schmehl noted, Aukamp-Corcoran’s primary duties as a licensed practical nurse at Lancaster General Health’s outpatient facility in Willow Lakes was to provide direct care to geriatric patients.

The judge also noted that on average, “the flu causes approximately 200,000 hospitalizations each year.” According to the CDC, about 90% of flu-related deaths and 50% to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.

In our view, only healthcare workers with documented medical reasons should be exempt from mandatory vaccinations, whether for influenza or COVID-19. And these medical exemptions must be granted sparingly, to ensure the health of patients.

We appreciate Judge Schmehl’s decision to grant Lancaster General Health’s request for summary judgment in this case, ending this lawsuit relatively quickly. He has injected some common sense into the often ridiculous and dangerous debate over vaccination and we commend him for it.


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