Allison LaBarbera never had an issue with getting a flu shot before. But now that she’s expecting her first child, things are a little different.Screenshot/CBS New York
As CBS New York reports, LaBarbera worked for Long Island’s NYU Winthrop Hospital as a vascular ultrasound technician. For years, she followed the hospital’s rule requiring all employees to get an annual flu shot. This year, however, LaBarbera was pregnant and concerned about the possible effect of the vaccine on her unborn child. In the video below, she told CBS New York:
“I have been on this holistic kind of trip with this pregnancy and have been really trying to take care of my body as best as I possibly can. And injecting the flu shot into my body is just not something that I am interested in.”
LaBarbera says she consulted two doctors about the shot and decided she didn’t want to take the risk. She then filled out a religious/medical exemption form and had it signed by her midwife:
“The two notes that I used said there wasn’t sufficient research for zero side effects on pregnant women, which is true. I mean, it basically says that on the box and the CDC website: pregnant women should consult their health care practitioners. I did.”
“This America. This is the land of second opinions.”
While LaBarbera requested an exemption from the hospital’s mandatory vaccine rule, she also offered to compromise. She was willing to wear a mask and gown to protect patients from possible exposure to the flu.
But the hospital rejected LaBarbera’s request, explaining that pregnancy is not a valid reason for an exemption to their rule. When she wouldn’t agree to get the flu shot, LaBarbera was fired. The expectant mom — who is now in her fifth month — had been planning to work through most of her pregnancy and says the hospital discriminated against her.
LaBarbera noted that the hospital cannot guarantee that everyone who enters the premises has been vaccinated:
“What about visitors who come in? What about the reps who come in? What about the independent contractors? Are they sure all those people are vaccinated?
She believes the hospital should have been willing to consider a compromise that would accommodate her concerns about the flu shot. As she told CBS New York, the hospital’s rule restricted her ability to make choices about her pregnancy:
“I don’t think it’s right. My choice, my body.”
However, the hospital says their policy is in place for the safety of both patients and employees. In a statement to CBS New York, the hospital said:
NYU Winthrop Hospital established the mandatory vaccination program many months ago as a condition of employment to protect the health and well-being of not only our patients but our employees. Every employee, including this one, was notified and given the opportunity to apply for a valid medical or religious exemption. This employee initially provided inadequate documentation. We requested additional documentation. Instead, we received the exact same documentation. She was told not to return to work unless she provided additional documentation from a doctor. She chose not to,
[…] NYU Winthrop Hospital believes that, as healthcare workers, every one of our employees has a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of our patients and our fellow employees. Mandatory flu vaccination is a commitment to that responsibility.
Moreover, the hospital cited the recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which states that pregnant women should get the flu vaccine because they are at higher risk of severe illness and death from flu complications. However, LaBarbera told CBS New York that she feels the hospital policy is unfair:
“I believe that if you threaten people with their paychecks and benefits, you can probably get them to do anything. But I don’t believe in that. I think that’s bullying people into doing things they are not comfortable with.”
Both ACOG and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend the flu shot for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, in part because it will help protect both the mother and baby from influenza. According to ACOG, changes in the immune system during pregnancy make expectant moms more prone to serious complications, and getting the flu while pregnant can increase the risk of premature labor and delivery.
Also, both the CDC and ACOG stress that the flu shot is safe for both pregnant women and their unborn babies. While ACOG notes that the way vaccines are categorized may worry some expectant moms, they stress that “millions of doses [of the flu shot] have been given to pregnant women with no adverse events occurring.”
Watch more on the story below: