A flu clinic held last week at the Haywood County Health and Human Services Department turned tense when members of a local group were distributing literature warning of flu vaccination dangers.

At one point, Patrick Johnson, public health services director for Haywood County, confronted the three women who were standing near front door of the health department building on Paragon Parkway in Clyde, where the clinic was being held.

“He called us crazy and told us to get off the property,” said Janet Presson, who, along with Melanie Williams and Lisa Niles, was interacting with those heading inside for a flu shot.

“He was aggressive and rude,” Williams said. “Part of his job is making sure people are given informed consent.”

Johnson said he was taken off guard by a group that would attempt to dissuade people from protecting themselves during a year when flu-like symptoms have already killed three people in Haywood County.

“I do regret confronting them and calling them crazy,” he said. “It was in the heat of the moment after my encounter with the little girl and her cancer comment/concern. As soon as the deputy told me they have the right to do what they were doing, I had no further contact with them. I should have ignored them like our 81 flu shot customers.”

Johnson said in the 30 years he has been involved in the public health field, he has never had a group try to disrupt clinic activities.

Why speak out?

Presson, Williams and Niles are part of HEAL WNC, an organization promoted on Facebook with a mission to “take action in WNC to shift public opinion toward true health, making fear-based, coercive medicine obsolete.”

“We are an informal organization of 70 or so people and we’re growing,” Williams said. “We would have loved to have a conversation with him (Johnson). We’re just trying to help. Medical professionals are supposed to provide informed consent, and they aren’t doing that.”

Presson said that when approaching those entering the clinic, nobody was advised to not get a flu shot.

“We were just providing information,” she said. “Most people don’t realize vaccination injuries are possible.”

The single sheet of paper the trio offered to flu clinic attendees was titled “Informed Consent for Fluzone Vaccine.”

The sheet included information taken directly from government and the manufacturer’s website, Williams explained, and included vaccine ingredients which were color-coded and referenced back to potentially adverse health effects.

Adverse reactions were listed, as were the number of reported reactions, 35,899, to the vaccine used this year.

The sheet listed the government website where consumers can report adverse reactions, and noted that $4.2 billion has been paid out in vaccine injuries. The back side of the sheet outlined 11 natural remedies for colds and flu.

Confusing people

Johnson said the health department does provide the informed consent sheet — the one distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sheet handed out by HEAL WNC contained “cherry-picked information” and created false impressions, he said.

“Getting a flu shot is safer than most of the things we do every day. Flu shots are safer than driving a car,” Johnson said. “What they don’t tell you is that 50 million flu shots are given each year and there are very few reactions. It does save lives.”

Johnson said he confronted the group after a 7-year-old girl on her way to get a flu shot spoke with one of the women and didn’t want to get the shot because she was afraid she would get cancer.

“Flu shots don’t cause cancer,” Johnson stressed. “We held this flu clinic primarily for children. I was stunned they came to our building. What bothers me is they tried to disrupt our clinic during a really active flu season.”

Johnson said there are plenty of places where the group can promote its anti-vaccination message.

“It was really inappropriate for them to be at our front door scaring little children. What really bothered me was we have confirmed three deaths in Haywood County from flu-like symptoms and it is early on in the flu season,” Johnson said. “I do think it is unconscionable they would try to disrupt our flu shot event in the midst of a very aggressive influenza season, one that has hit Haywood County very hard.”

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