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Article published October 27, 2012
Flu shots necessary
Amesh A. Adalja, M.D. Penn Township Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
The atrocious misrepresentation of science by Deborah Bonn, director of the Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania, in her effort on behalf of the union representing Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center employees to avoid influenza vaccination and mask policies, should be embarrassing to all health care personnel represented by her. Bonn displays no knowledge of influenza epidemiology when she erroneously states that only personnel displaying flu-like symptoms should don a mask, ignoring the fact that a substantial proportion of those infected with — and able to shed — the influenza virus do not exhibit symptoms. Moreover, Bonn’s knowledge of what masks can and can’t be used for is ridiculous and entirely devoid of scientific reasoning. Influenza vaccination should be a condition of employment for health care workers, and any attempt to avoid this laudable development clearly illustrates a lack of respect for evidence-based medicine. Meanwhile, James Matson was mistaken in his view of influenza vaccinations. Matson believes that since residents at Sunnyview will be vaccinated, there is no need to enforce vaccination or mask policies for health care workers. What Matson fails to consider is the fact that the elderly — who constitute the majority of Sunnyview residents — exhibit blunted responses to the ordinary influenza vaccine, which itself is not optimally protective. This blunted immunity in the elderly might not translate into protection from the virus.