I was at a birth as a doula in Bakersfield, CA recently where the couple's nurse was wearing a mask. I didn't think anything of it. Soon I realized the parents were worried, because you know, people in masks cannot be trusted (reference, anyone?).
Many hospitals require their employees to get yearly flu shots. Even as a childbirth educator and health worker formerly employed by a hospital-based midwifery clinic in Chico, CA I was meant to get the vaccine -- it was all ready for me in our on-site medical refrigerator. But like many, I chose to decline it.
What does it mean if you decline the flu shot? The Center for Disease Control has this to say about health workers and vaccinations:
"CDC conducts science-based investigations, research, and public health surveillance both nationally and internationally. CDC adopts recommendations that are made by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. These recommendations may be considered by state and other Federal agencies when making or enforcing laws. CDC also has infection control recommendations for health care settings. However, CDC does not issue any requirements or mandates for state agencies, health systems, or health care workers regarding infection control practices, including influenza vaccination or the use of masks. However, some employers require certain immunizations. Hospitals, for example, may require some staff to get the flu vaccine or hepatitis B vaccine or take other precautions such as the use of masks."
(This link also had some very non-helpful links for further information.)
Enter the mask!
When I noticed my clients were looking at their nurse's mask with trepidation, I explained many hospitals require employees who decline the flu vaccination to wear a mask during flu season. The mother looked relieved as she shared, "I just thought she was sick and still working." That's a pretty scary thought when you are about to have a baby!
I then engaged the nurse in our conversation, so she could confirm or clarify what I had said to these parents. She let us know she had a bad reaction to the flu shot once, and ever since, she declines it and opts to wear the mask instead.
I have a good friend, Jessica, who works in a hospital and also chooses, every year, to wear the mask. As a mother who has a vaccine-injured family member, her reason is different: "I always tell people that I feel safer with a mask on my face than a shot in my arm. I feel better protected. The flu is not the only nasty thing that goes around this time of year, and when the CDC only promises 18-30% effectiveness for this year's flu shot, I'm 100% protected with a mask on my face."
The next time you see someone in the health field sporting a mask, don't worry -- they likely aren't sick! They may have just decided the flu vaccination is not a health risk they are willing to take, and this is their way of still serving you safely.
(I know Jessica would appreciate if I linked to the website for Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe. Her mask stickers actually mention the movie, but the text wasn't coming out clearly in the picture, so I changed the words to better fit this post.)
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)