Nurses to Sue Over H1N1 Shots
They object to state mandating health workers be vaccinated
ALBANY -- Lorna Patterson is willing to take on New York's top health official for her right to be flu vaccine-free.
The registered nurse in Albany Medical Center's emergency room is among a group of nurses who plan to file a lawsuit against state Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines to prevent the mandatory vaccination of New York's health care workers with the H1N1 flu virus.
"It takes away our freedom of choice," Patterson told reporters during a news conference Monday. "Our health is being affected."
The deadline for the state's health care workers to receive the swine flu vaccination is at the end of next month, though some employers have moved that up to the end of this month.
The four nurses will file a lawsuit against the state this week to prevent the forced vaccination, said their attorney, Terence L. Kindlon.
"This is a significant civil rights issue," Kindlon said. "We think people are being forced to do something by the government."
If Patterson and Kathryn Dupuis do not receive their shots within the next two weeks, they will likely lose their jobs in the emergency room at Albany Medical Center. Patterson said the vaccination was rushed into production in a matter of months and that its effect has not yet been properly studied.
Patterson said the vaccination could be dangerous for people, including pregnant women, and that more time is needed to understand its effectiveness. She said she is not willing to risk her health and does not think it is fair that she should lose her job.
Outside of New York City, 91,000 FluMist doses -- the inhalant form of the vaccine -- were delivered by the end of last week. Health care workers are at the front of the line for those to receive the first round.
A similar suit filed last week in New York City names Commissioner Daines and Jeffrey Kraut, chairman of the state Hospital Planning and Review Council, and contends it is beyond the state's authority to mandate getting the vaccines. Kindlon said the New York Civil Liberties Union and other groups may file similar legal action in the coming weeks.
Daines has said that vulnerable people and those who haven't been immunized come to hospitals and that they need to be protected from the possibility that medical workers carry the virus. The commissioner has said health workers in hospitals, clinics and other settings must be vaccinated by Nov. 30 or risk losing their jobs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates it will have provided states with 186 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine by January. New York officials expect the state to receive 6.7 million doses for upstate and 5 million doses for the city.
New York is the first state to mandate flu vaccinations for health care workers. The nurses preparing to file the lawsuit have already collected more than 400 signatures of health care workers against the forced vaccinations and are helping plan at rally scheduled for this Wednesday at the Capitol.