Why this Pregnant Nurse was Fired for Declining the Flu Vaccine

Image via iStock/Yuri_Arcurs
Image via iStock/Yuri_Arcurs

After learning that a mother’s employment was terminated due to her personal health beliefs and simple desire to protect and keep her unborn baby, I’m left to wonder: Will women ever have ultimate equality at work?

After suffering three miscarriages, Dreonna Breton, who was a nurse at the Horizons Healthcare Services in Pennsylvania, decided it was in her best interest to refuse the flu vaccine that was required by her employer, due to the “very limited studies of the effects on pregnant women.”

Even though Dreonna “submitted letters from her obstetrician and primary care doctor supporting her decision,” and offered to wear a face mask while at work, she was still canned.

According to CNN, Dreonna, 29, said, “I'm a healthy person. I take care of my body. For me, the potential risk was not worth it. I'm not gonna be the one percent of people that has a problem … I know that the CDC says to get it, and that's fine, but it was our choice to avoid the flu vaccine and the unknowns that come with that.”

The CNN article stated that Alan Peterson, a spokesman for Horizons Healthcare Services, said “it's unconscionable for a health care worker not to be immunized and that pregnant women are more susceptible to the flu.” But isn’t it also unconscionable to require a pregnant woman to go against her personal beliefs on what she feels is best for her unborn child?

{ MORE: Dealing with Pregnancy Challenges in the Workplace }

In another statement, released to CBS, the company said, “Like our requirements for TB skin testing and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination as a condition of employment, mandatory flu immunization protects our patients, employees, and community from getting this potentially serious infection.”

Face masks are allowed for employees who are exempt due to religious reasons; and men don’t have uteri to worry over, or a prehistoric “Sensitive, Emotional Homemaker” status stamped to their foreheads. But working women with children – on the mind, in the womb, or at home – have no scope of flexibility for company standards. Yes, they have some sort of maternity leave benefit (which, depending on their state/employer, may or may not be considerate enough); and everyone has set PTO. But most working mothers will tell you that their PTO is lost on sick children, annual doctor’s appointments for their children, and school-related business … for their children. Most working women will tell you that their PTO is rarely used for vacations or, heaven forbid, their own sick leave.

{ MORE: Notifying Work of Your Pregnancy }

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Dreonna is taking the high road on this one, in my opinion. She isn’t taking legal action against her former employer. She just wants the company to “reevaluate their policy on vaccines for pregnant employees.”

Do you think women will ever have ultimate equality at work? Or do you feel the work environment is pretty balanced these days?

What do you think?

Why this Pregnant Nurse was Fired for Declining the Flu Vaccine

Kimberly Shannon is a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer ... She is always working to find the perfect balance¹! After Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she worked on two master’s degree programs (Creative Writing, and Marriage and Family Therapy). At various times in her life she has signed up to study Naturopathy, only to back out at the last minute, and humored the idea of returning full-time to the world of dance. Kimberly has also started 10 different children ... More

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6 comments

  1. Christelle says:

    Research studies have shown that for the average person the flu vaccine is only effective about 50% of the time. Effectiveness drops dramatically for those individuals over age 65 to less than 9% effective to prevent the flu. I am now a nurse practitioner but worked as RN when I was pregnant. Thankfully I was able to refuse the flu vaccine and wear a mask. Many people don’t realize that all vaccines have an adjuvant which is usually some form of heavy metal. Our day to day environment has a number of toxic exposures so limiting exposure to contaminants is of interest to all individuals, especially a pregnant woman. During all pregnancy and especially during the periods of rapid cell division and organ formation any and all avoidable toxic exposures should be avoided. The research is proof that to decide whether or not the flu vaccine is effective you may as well just flip a coin. Is someone from the CDC going to come and take care of this woman’s child if this little is injured by the vaccine? That hospital has a lot of nerve and if it were me I would certainly seek legal action. Let each person do their due diligence to decide what’s best, this is America after all. Forcing people to anything to their bodies with out very convincing literature is simply wrong.

  2. Rebekah says:

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on this one. I think you’re turning this into something it’s not. This is not about gender bias. The hospital has a right and a necessity to protect it’s patients. If it is company policy for ALL staff to be vaccinated, then ALL staff should be held to this standard. As a nurse, she comes into contact with people with compromised immune systems all day long. Think about it- would you want someone with the flu taking care of you or your child? If she doesn’t want the vaccine because she’s afraid it might harm her baby, she should also think about the effect she constant contact with diseases and a very rigorous schedule could have. Maybe during her high risk pregnancy, she should take a hiatus from nursing anyway. And by the way, a flat-out refusal to adhere to company policy would also get a man fired.

    • Wendy says:

      I agree with Rebekah as well – I don’t think this is at all a gender issue. I understand the overwhelming desire to protect your unborn baby (I worried/panicked/flipped out about every possible toxin and exposure when pregnant with my son), but if you’re a healthcare worker, you should be required to get vaccinated. To me it’s a reasonable policy and job requirement in order to protect (as best they can) patients.

    • gfeld says:

      This is what I believe as well. You said it well, Rebekah.

    • Seity says:

      I agree with you 100%

    • Kim Shannon says:

      Hi Rebekah! It’s not that I mean to turn this into gender bias, but more so the bias against a mother’s personal decisions for her unborn baby with the same respect someone is able to exempt these same issues for religious reasons; and men don’t have to consider how something will affect an unborn fetus within their bodies. Company rules are company rules, and I understand the importance a hospital may place on employees receiving vaccines, but I don’t think they needed to fire her if they could allow her to wear a face mask, like others are able to. And if she did get the flu, she should absolutely be required to stay home until she was once again healthy. Anyone with the flu should stay away from as many people as they can in order to prevent spreading the virus. In any case, I’m sure there are many opinions on this story, and I thank you for sharing yours! That’s why this community is so great. I love that we can all share our opinions and learn different viewpoints from each other!

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