X-ray technician suspended for refusing hepatitis vaccine

Some people in Doaktown are fighting the suspension of the community's X-ray technician, who refused to get a hepatitis B vaccination.

Doaktown residents have started a petition to support Janet Hughes

Janet Hughes, a x-ray technician in Doaktown, discusses why she is refusing a Hepatitis vaccination 3:01

Some people in Doaktown are fighting the suspension of the community's X-ray technician, who refused to get a hepatitis B vaccination.

Janet Hughes says she previously accepted mandatory vaccines for measles, tetanus and whooping cough.

But she refused the hepatitis B injection because she believes she was infected with hepatitis C when she was younger and feared the vaccine might cause a negative reaction.

New Brunswick's Horizon Health Network suspended her without pay three months ago.

Hughes contends it's a human rights issue.

"I've been in the X-ray business for 48 years. And now all of a sudden they tell me I'm a burden, or a health risk or something? It just doesn't make sense," she said.

"A big problem is I don't think that anybody — corporation, group, business, employer — should have the right to force somebody to take injections that they don't want."

Hughes' long-time friend, Gilbert Thibideau, has started a petition designed to "stir the hornet's nest" concerning her suspension.

He says he has already collected dozens of signatures only a few days into the campaign.

"It's a miscarriage of justice," said Thibideau. "Shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. That's what I'm doing this petition, trying to get her reinstated. Whether it works or not, we don't know, but we're going to give it a shot."

Residents face one-hour commute

Thibideau contends Hughes' personal decision should not cripple an entire community.

Hughes is the only resident of Doaktown who is qualified to take X-rays at the Central Miramichi Community Health Centre.

Without her, residents will have to travel more than an hour to Fredericton or Miramichi for their scans.

Horizon Health has yet to comment on the suspension.

Dr. Brian Goldman from CBC's White Coat, Black Art says Hughes' fears about the hepatitis B vaccine are unfounded.

"There's almost no contra-indications to a hepatitis vaccine, other than an allergy to the vaccine or an allergy to bakers' yeast, both of which are very very rare," said Goldman.

"A prior history of hepatitis C or other most other medical illnesses is not a contra-indication, it's not a reason to refuse the vaccine," he said.

"Even being pregnant, breastfeeding, those are not reasons to refuse the vaccine."

Having said that, Goldman believes suspending medical staff without pay is an extreme reaction, particularly if it handicaps a community.

Hughes says she's hoping for the best, but expects she'll be forced to take an early retirement.