While the vaccine debate rages on, a pediatric nurse's Facebook post has renewed attention on those who care for vulnerable populations, such as children. Should certain vaccinations be mandatory for healthcare workers? Or is that a step too far to ensure patient safety?
The unnamed nurse, who works at the Texas Children's Hospital West Campus, posted about a measles case she witnessed in the intensive care unit. The post was initially shared on the Facebook page "Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children—Texas," but the page has since been deleted. Before it went down, a concerned parent took screenshots of the post and comments, and shared it on the children's hospital Facebook page.
What to the nurse might have been an attempt to empathize with parents who choose to vaccinate quickly backfired.
"For the first time in my career, I saw measles this week. Actually, most of my co-workers and the ER docs saw measles for the first time, as well. And, honestly, it was rough. The kid was super sick. Sick enough to be admitted to the ICU and he looked miserable," she wrote.
The nurse described how the child couldn't be touched without crying or moaning in pain. Seeing the child's condition, she said, made her a little more understanding of other parents who vaccinate "out of fear."
"I think it's easy for us non-vaxxers to make assumptions but most of us have never and will never see one of these diseases," she wrote.
But even after witnessing the dangers of measles, which is largely preventable with vaccines, she reaffirmed her anti-vaccination stance.
"By no means have I changed my vax stance, and I never will," she wrote. "But I just wanted to share my experience and how much worse it was than I expected."
In the comments, the nurse later commented, "I'm not kidding that I thought about swabbing his mouth and bringing it home to my 13(-year-old)."
The Texas Children's Hospital responded to the Facebook screenshots and said, "We are aware of this situation and have started a thorough investigation. We take these matters very seriously. The views of this employee do not represent that of the organization."
The hospital also confirmed to ABC News that a male toddler, between the ages of 1 and 3 years old, did test positive for measles. The boy recently traveled internationally, and it's possible he contracted the disease overseas. Houston's Health Department, however, said further tests will be needed to confirm measles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of August 11, 2018, 124 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in the U.S. this year.
While many hospitals recommend employees get specific vaccines like the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), state immunization laws may not require vaccinations of healthcare workers.
The American Nursing Association wrote on its website that "by nature of their work, nurses come into contact with many infectious diseases," and vaccinations are an important way to protect not only nurses, but also their patients and family.
Texas Children's Hospital said it encourages all staff to obtain recommended vaccines, and those who don't may be limited in the scope of treating patients. But it can't disclose whether or not the nurse under investigation, who is currently not seeing patients, has had her vaccines.