I keep seeing these stories where parents of ill children, specifically newborn infants, claim that their babies were taken and immunized in some stealthy manner against their will. These supposed hit and run, unauthorized vaccinations are then allegedly hidden by the practitioner/hospital and don’t appear on record. This allegation shows lack of understanding of the medication administration process from beginning to end. What it also shows is that parents are desperate for a place to lay blame for their child’s medical challenges. So desperate in fact, that a make-believe scenario, which is not supported by any verifiable evidence, becomes more appealing than either having no answer or having an answer that implicates genetic/organic origin for their child’s struggles despite having done what they felt would actually make their child healthier (refusing vaccines). When a child becomes ill after a decision to forgo vaccination or recommended medical treatment, the guilt must be awful as a parent, especially if the parent realizes that their poor decision, made with honest intent may have contributed to the unwanted outcome.
In a hospital setting, medications and vaccines are kept in locked, electronically controlled drawers and fridges. These units are often called Omnicell or Pyxis machines. In order to operate the machine, a user (nurse usually) must log in with either a passcode or a fingerprint. Once logged in, the user must select a patient name or medical record number to interact with. Once the name is selected, you are free to choose medications or vaccines to extract from the machine. The record of this transaction is uploaded to the patients file. Once the medication or vaccine is the hands of the practitioner, the medication is then scanned into the patient’s electronic chart, usually it is scanned along with the armband of the patient. This scanning process will not be possible unless an order from a doctor for the vaccine is present in the patient’s chart. Nurses cannot prescribe medications. This step ensures that the medication or vaccine was ordered by a person licensed to prescribe. When it comes to vaccines, if the scanning does not automatically generate a lot number and manufacturer, the information must be typed in by hand. Once these steps are completed, the vaccine can then be administered.
Now, I know you’re probably wondering if the process can be overridden. The answer is yes. If as a nurse, I need to get into the Omnicell for a medication but the patient is not registered yet, I can select an option that attributes the medication to a generic entity. In my hospital we call that “floor stock” which I can select in place of a patient name. In some emergency situations, I have had to do this. In this situation, I MUST go back in once the patient is registered and resolve the discrepancy that appears on my personal account, otherwise, my personal account is flagged to my management as having a medication pulled by me but billed to no patient. This is something that costs the hospital money, so it is not something tolerated by upper management. They will find me and ask me which patient I gave this medication to, because they will not receive reimbursement for this medication unless they have a patient to bill it to. I must be able to tell my management who this item was given to or I can be accused of stealing the medication or vaccine or administering it to someone who did not have an order. Both of those scenarios are actionable against my license to practice as a nurse.
Vaccines in particular are tracked all the way up and down the chain of manufacture to distribution to administration. Hospitals buy a certain number of vaccines and they track closely who those vaccines are given to, not only for billing purposes, but so that lot numbers can be associated to any increased incidence of adverse events. This is the way that we ensure that there is not a faulty or contaminated batch of vaccinations. Since hospitals must buy their vaccines or apply for their vaccines to be covered under the vaccines for children program, they must collect accurate data on how many vaccines they administer so that they don’t under or over order which results in losses to the hospital. If it’s one thing I can assure you, it’s that hospitals aren’t giving away anything for free, and nurses aren’t pulling vaccines under their log in without attributing those to a patient for billing- It simply doesn’t work that way.
So, No. Nurses are not running around stealth vaccinating newborn infants against the will of the parent without traceable repercussions from their employers. Hospitals are not turning a blind eye to missing vaccines with no patient to bill them to. Believing this shows an understandable misconception about how the process of medication and vaccine administration occurs in a hospital. This doesn’t even begin to address the ethics violation that would occur against a nurse’s license if we were caught administering anything to a patient without a physician’s order to do so or without the permission of the guardian.
The narrative of ninja nurses, stealth vaccinating infants or children is a fabrication that is meant to resolve parental guilt or anguish associated with an ill child, and a story perpetuated by people to fear monger new parents who are hesitant about vaccines-and nothing more.