You expect politicians to do better to protect public health

Jeremy Thiesfeldt is a state representative in the great state of Wisconsin, a Republican. Mr. Thiesfeldt has decided that no flu vaccine in healthcare workers is better than any vaccine in healthcare workers, because, dammit, this is America:

“The debate over the mandatory influenza vaccinations of employees is worthy of a vigorous public airing. Much controversy has been growing nationwide as to the plight of employees, particularly healthcare workers, being dismissed from their jobs due to their refusal to accept such an unwanted intrusion into their personal healthcare decisions.”

Quite an intrusion indeed. Next up, I hear, Mr. Thiesfeldt will lobby to get rid of OSHA standards requiring personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. I mean, if these healthcare workers want to be free, then they should be free to not be protected. After all, gowns, gloves, and masks are not 100%, and, according to Mr. Thiesfeldt, if it’s not 100%, it’s not worth it:

“The history of vaccinations in the US has been one filled with controversy. The strongest argument in favor has been the high degree of effectiveness of many common vaccinations that reaches 90% or higher. The influenza vaccine does not enjoy this success. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that for the 2012-13 season the vaccine had a 38% fail rate. This is consistent with all the evidence from previous years putting the fail rate at anywhere from 30-50%.”

Mr. Thiesfeldt needs to be educated on the Nirvana Fallacy. Of course, readers of this blog know that even if the vaccine gave a 50/50 shot of not getting sick, I’d take it. It’s better than nothing, and there are plenty of people working to make it better. But Mr. Jeremy Thiesfeldt doesn’t stop there. The rest of his statement reads like a blog post at any “reputable” anti-vaccine blog:

“Another documented fact is each year individuals nationwide have been severely harmed by submitting to the influenza vaccination, and in some cases death has resulted.”

I’m yet to come across a confirmed death from the flu vaccine in all the years that I’ve worked in public health, and I look at tons of reports. Allergic reactions? Yes. Guillain-Barre Syndrome? Yes. Even one case of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. But death? Not really. And all of those injuries from the flu vaccine? They all occurred at a lower rate than deaths and complications from influenza itself.

But politicians are not known for using facts to further their agendas:

“Do we have any less incidence of flu because of it? Not appreciably. The largest declines in incidence and deaths from influenza came prior to 1980, which is around the time the flu vaccine became widely used. In fact, a 2005 US National Institute of Health study of over 30 influenza seasons could not find a correlation between increasing vaccination coverage and declining mortality rates in any age group.”

I can’t find that study. If someone does, please send it my way.

“The flu vaccine is different each season. It is an educated guess as to what strains of the virus will be most prevalent in coming months. In spite of best efforts, often these predictions are wrong. Because of these variations, hospitals are already filled with both patients, employees, visitors and varying vendors who have been ineffectively vaccinated.”

No, sir, these predictions are not often wrong. They are often correct. Even the type B flu, which we mismatch a lot, is still a match 50% of the time. (Yes, no better than a coin-toss, but better than nothing.)

And on and on he goes about freedom, with slippery-slope arguments that allowing employers to discipline healthcare workers who do not vaccinate will lead to forces vaccinations in other settings and for other vaccines. But, you know what, Mr. Thiesfeldt looks young. He probably doesn’t remember the 1960’s, when women had to worry about having disfigured children because they were exposed to Rubella. He probably has never seen a child die from the flu, or have to talk to the child’s parents.

He must have Wisconsin residents’ best interests in mind, right?

“The requirements of Obamacare will likely eventually push healthcare employers to reach a required plateau of immunizations of their workforce in order to receive certain bonuses or reimbursements. Pharmaceutical corporations have obvious financial interests in the mandate as well.”

Ah, conspiracy theorist. Never mind.

PS: The always awesome Todd W. at Harpocrates Speaks has covered this issue as well, and very well so.

15 thoughts on “You expect politicians to do better to protect public health

  1. Please, please, tell me that Michael Wagnitz, a toxicologist from theWisconsin State laboratory is not banging on about chopped up babies that are used to manufacture childhood vaccines:

    The “bot Media Director” from that anti-vaccine, anti-science blog has posted on this blog and alerted her flying monkey squad. There are some interesting comments from a retired public health nurse-epidemiologist.

  2. Elsewhere in Wisconsin, Thiesfeldt’s proposed legislation, has been met with a lot of push back, according to the comments associated with this article:

    Heh, heh…so who are you going to trust for reliable information about yearly immunizations against influenza for all health care workers; the State legislator/former teacher…or a practicing physician whose specialty is the treatment of communicable diseases?

        • He really is stupid, as evidenced by his turning on his handlers at that notorious anti-vaccine blog and dishing the dirt for Timmy to publish. Shouldn’t he be busy going on job interviews (if GWU, did, in fact, award him a MPH-Epidemiology degree)?

          Why am I not surprised that the parent of a child who lost her *test case* in the Vaccine Court’s Omnibus proceedings, is supporting the Epi-wannabe?

          Tripping down memory lane for us…(and for wzrd1 who missed the fun), this blog and the many comments about nurses who refuse to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza:

          • I remember the rightful termination of those nurses. Frankly, they need to have their license revoked as well, as they endanger any patient in any facility foolish enough to retain them.

            I skimmed the comments for a bit on the link you kindly provided, all I saw was factual discussion and hyperbole, coupled with anecdote. Reuben made a counter anecdote that gave me a chuckle.
            Plus, of course, Guillain–Barré syndrome. Oops, I’m sorry, it was GEUILLAIN-BARRE SYNDROME, as if caps made it it more prevalent. Something that was a simple display of sheer ignorance about statistics and what those numbers mean.
            Apparently, if one has one in two million or even higher chance to become ill with one specific syndrome, the much higher probability of lethal effects of the disease is irrelevant.
            Just a further example of the failure of our educational system in teaching critical thinking, simple statistics and overall reasoning.
            AKA, *so* much stupid in far too many people.

        • Kiddo now has two “Twitter” accounts. The new one has no posts on it and that dopey picture of him is gone.

          • The old one (@JakeCrosbyAoA) is now devoid of tweets. The new one (@JakeLCrosby) has his tweets there. His bio reads that he is still a grad student. I’m not surprised. He didn’t present his project. We’ll see if he presents this summer. I guess his distancing himself from Age of Autism as much as possible now. His alignment with Brian Hooker and Tim “I, Patrick” Bolen is almost complete. BTW, did you read the letter Hooker sent to Gerberding, with the Bible citation? Creepy.

            • The question in my mind is, who “urged” him to open that new Twitter account?

              So, kiddo didn’t “present” his thesis and hasn’t been awarded his diploma. Why am I not surprised?

              I sure did read that letter on your friend’s blog…and commented on it.

              “A state of war? More like a modern day religious crusade, by this anti-vaccine, anti-science crusader.

              I’m not at all surprised that this man’s crude interpretation of biblical passages is in his anti-vaccine playbook…a common theme within the crowd he hangs with. Just another martyr parent who cannot accept that he has a special needs child.

              IANAL…but if the substance of his claim before the Vaccine Court for “vaccine injuries” on behalf of his son, is based on mercury toxicity results from a “specialty laboratory”…he hasn’t a prayer of being successful.”

      • Thanks for that link, lilady. Far more polite and eloquent than I’m capable of.
        Indeed, I usually end up substituting the F bomb in favor of the A bomb. 😉
        Pity the entire article couldn’t be placed into public access. At times, snark can educate the public far better than simply providing simple facts.
        I’ll suggest that it is due to the abject failure that we call an educational system, which is bereft education in critical thinking.

  3. When discussing an emotionally charged topic, which to the antivaxer, it is, I try substituting something else for a vaccine.
    In this case, I’d remark that no automobile or truck is 100% reliable. Tens of thousands of Americans are killed and injured as a result of trucks and automobiles.
    Therefor, by their reasoning, we should prohibit all motor vehicles and dig up our highway systems.
    Of course, then the majority of the population of the nation would starve to death.
    But then, there was that Spanish Influenza buggerboo that did that killing and incapacitating thing to around 28% of the US population and 500,000 to 675,000 died.
    And that doesn’t even go into health care workers having the “right” to infect patients with whatever they’re infected with. By THAT candle, I should be allowed to get a .50 machinegun and shoot it into the air on Independence Day. Apparently, everyone else has no right to have their life randomly ended by lunatic decisions of others on that reprehensible from Wisconsin.

    • Personally, I think he’s playing to the far-right crowd on the whole “liberty” thing. It’s not “liberty or death” when it comes to the flu vaccine. Well, death for whomever catches it in the cancer ward because asshat nurse won’t be bothered with a prick. What a bunch of maroons.

      • Not only the cancer ward. Think about how immunocompromised victims are in a burn ward. We’ll not even go into AIDS patients or the elderly.

        • Or pediatric patients. Also, one commenter on my post noted that this bill would infringe on patients’ rights to choose hospitals that ensure the risks of influenza are as minimized as possible, since it ensures that all hospitals will now have an elevated risk of outbreaks.

          • Don’t get me started on pediatric patients. My infant grandson gave me an annoying influenza B variant that wasn’t covered by this year’s immunizations. Rather annoying.
            Was feeding him, making the usual faces to have him open his mouth and he promptly sneezed right into my open mouth.
            Meanwhile, mom had recovered from a mild A variant that was going around, she had her immunization, but oops. We chuckled about being on the wrong end of the odds, as her husband also was immunized and stayed healthy.
            The kids were exposed by an antivax mom, who had her kids play with my grandchildren while still secreting massive amounts of mucus.
            I suggested to my eldest daughter that she reconsider letting the kids play next time, lest I be forced to shred her RN license.
            Fortunately, my father was immunized against this year’s influenza and didn’t contract it. As he has chronic CHF and end stage renal disease, it would have been a disaster.
            It was bad enough that he did spend a month in the hospital for pneumonia. The practitioners initially thinking it was exclusively infectious, I finally suggested that they examine his cardiac and kidney function, as the nephrologist had, the day before I raced him to the ED with rales and rhonchi in all fields, wanted my father to have vascular access to begin dialysis.
            The local hospital continued trying to treat the problem as infectious, in spite of a negative culture and not bothering with attempting to relieve the excess of fluid, we transferred him to a more competent facility.
            After a month in hospital, he’s recovering an a skilled care nursing facility to receive OT and PT with the plan to return home. He’s also on dialysis three times per week now, with a fistula to be surgically created early next month.
            Had he not been immunized, that annoying B variant would’ve killed him in his weakened condition.

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