LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A pregnant woman on Long Island was fired after refusing to get a flu shot.
Allison LaBarbera, of Long Beach, is five months pregnant. The vascular ultrasound technician says it’s sad and disturbing how NYU Winthrop Hospital treated her.
“I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “My choice, my body.”
The hospital requires the vaccine in order to protect vulnerable patients.
LaBarbera says she was fine with getting the flu shot over the years, until she became pregnant. She told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall she was told not to receive the vaccine by two doctors.
“This America. This is the land of second opinions,” she said.
“The two notes that I used said there wasn’t sufficient research for zero side effects on pregnant women, which is true,” she said. “I mean, it basically says that on the box and the CDC website: pregnant women should consult their health care practitioners. I did.”
LaBarbera applied for a medical/religious exemption request signed by her midwife and even offered to wear a mask and gown to protect patients.
“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,” she said. “And injecting the flu shot into my body is just not something that I am interested in.”
The hospital says pregnancy alone is not a valid basis for exemption and points to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommendation that all pregnant women receive the vaccine — they’re at increased risk of serious illness or death from the flu.
But civil rights attorney Rick Ostrove calls the hospital’s decision discriminatory.
“They also have an obligation to engage in an interactive process to find an acceptable accommodation. For example, wearing a mask, a gown or other sanitation procedures might have satisfied all the employer’s concerns.”
“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?” Labarbera asked.
The hospital says it believes its healthcare workers have a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of its patients and employees.
“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.”
NYU Winthrop Hospital says it’s the only hospital on Long Island that has made it mandatory for employees to get the flu shot.
Find the hospital’s full statement below:
“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,” the statement read in part.
“Based on clear national clinical standards, pregnancy alone was not deemed a valid basis for an exemption. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) continues to recommend that all women receive the influenza vaccine, including pregnant women, who are at increased risk of serious illness and mortality due to influenza. This recommendation applies in any trimester. Moreover, the ACOG states that maternal vaccination is the most effective strategy to protect newborns because the vaccine is not approved for use in infants younger than six months,” the statement continued. “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.”