A pregnant nurse in Pennsylvania was fired after she refused a mandatory flu shot over fears it would hurt her unborn child.
Dreonna Breton, 29, found out she was pregnant in October, one month before her employer, Horizon Healthcare Services, requires all staff to receive a flu shot.
Breton says the labels for many flu vaccines indicate it should only be given to pregnant women “if clearly needed.”
Having had two miscarriages since her first child was born, she didn’t want to take any chances. Breton filed for an exemption from the mandatory shot, but her employer denied it.
“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 the vaccine by the November 15 deadline I would be terminated,” Breton told the Daily Mail.
The hospital does allow for exemptions if the staff is allergic or if the shot is against their religious beliefs.
Hospital officials told Breton she would have to bring a note from her obstetrician before she was exempt.
“[My midwife] wrote me a letter explaining that the vaccines 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 her employer would not accept the letter because it wasn’t from a doctor.
A hospital family care doctor wrote her a note that read: “In my view, getting the flu shot would significantly and negatively impact (her) 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.”
Her employer wouldn’t accept that excuse either.
“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.
“It would be a false statement to say the flu vaccine is known to be safe during pregnancy,” she added. “I have lost my job, one that I love and am good at, because I chose to do what I believe is best for my baby.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women receive the flu shot, saying it’s perfectly safe during any trimester.
“Flu shots are a safe way to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from serious illness and complications of flu, like pneumonia,” the CDC says. “The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu shot.”
“It is especially important for pregnant women to get the flu shot as you are more likely to have serious complications to yourself and your pregnancy if you get the flu,” says Jones Hopkins Medicine, a leader in biomedical research. “Once you get the flu shot, your body will start producing antibodies that will help protect you against the flu, and this protection can be passed to your unborn baby.”
Compulsory flu shots are common in hospital settings.
Breton has worked for Lancaster General Hospital, which owns Horizon Healthcare Services, since 2008. It is unclear whether she received the shot during her first pregnancy.