A new government policy requires health care workers in patient contact areas to wear masks during this flu season if they don't get a flu vaccination shot.

Health union fighting needle-or-mask flu edict

New B.C. policy may create two visible camps among health professionals on issue of vaccine safety

Health care workers say a government order that they get the flu shot or else wear a mask this flu season amounts to a violation of their personal privacy.

The Health Sciences Association of B.C. has filed a grievance on behalf of its members, who include various lab and imaging technologists, pharmacists and therapists.

Union president Reid Johnson said the edict that those who choose not to be vaccinated must wear a mask may expose them to criticism from the public.

Meanwhile those who comply are to wear a sticker, badge or button to assure patients they’ve been vaccinated.

As a result, he said, health professionals will be divided into two visible camps on the contentious issue of flu vaccination.

“They have the right to keep that private,” Johnson said. “To be identified as having taken their flu shot or not taken it, we believe is a human rights issue.”

Health workers have a right to make their own choices, he said, adding some choose not to be vaccinated due to chronic medical conditions or bad side effects in the past.

“They may also have personal, philosophical or religious reasons for not getting vaccinations – that needs to be respected.”

The use of masks may make it harder for some patients who don’t hear well to understand health workers, Johnson added.

The directive to get the influenza vaccine applies to all health authority staff, doctors, volunteers, students, contractors and vendors who work in patient contact areas of community or publicly funded facilities.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall gave the order this summer, citing a less than 50 per cent flu immunization rate among B.C. health care workers despite free shots and much encouragement.

John O’Neil, dean of SFU’s health sciences faculty, called it a “dangerously low” vaccination rate that raises the risk of illness and death among vulnerable patients.

“It’s irresponsible for those of us in public health not to take every possible precaution,” he said, endorsing the new policy.

O’Neil acknowledged there’s a risk health employees who refuse vaccinations and mask up will send the signal they harbour doubts, sewing more skepticism in the public about vaccine safety.

“That could be an unfortunate side effect of this policy but that’s what we have to do to protect people in our health care system,” he said.

Some shaming wouldn’t be a bad thing, O’Neil added.

“If there was a way of putting a label on health care workers who don’t wash their hands – we should do that, quite honestly.”

O’Neil said the scientific evidence for the safety of vaccines is “solid” despite large amounts of misinformation online from interest groups, including alternative medicine sellers with a vested interest in fomenting fear.

Just Posted

Chilliwack Chief Harrison Blaisdell climbs Central Scouting Bureau rankings

The 17 year old forward is now drawing a second round grade as CSB releases its mid-term list.

Classical paired with folk for Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra’s winter concert

Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra presents Tchaikovsky in America at G.W. Graham theatre

Community artists, amateurs wanted to create Kent anniversary logo

The 125th anniversary committee is hoping to choose a logo designed by the community

Kent to weigh in on ride-sharing policies

The district will be submitting comments to the province on what ride sharing should look like

Chilliwack prolific offender wanted yet again

B.C.-wide warrant issued for David Allen Geoghegan

VIDEO: Harrison sailor looking for competitors to race model boats

Bernhard Van Velze is hoping to create a club for model sailboats at Harrison Lake

Parole granted for drunk driver that killed BC RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

Doug Ford says the Liberals’ carbon tax will plunge Canada into recession

The Ontario premier said there are already warning signs of difficult economic times ahead

Kamala Harris opens U.S. presidential bid in challenge to Trump

The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

RCMP ‘amending’ helicopter training after complaints in Surrey

Cloverdale residents say the Air One chopper was in the air for hours and flying at low altitudes

Woman offers luxury Alberta home for just $25 and a flair for the written word

Alla Wagner ran into health problems, which forced her to list the 5,000-square-foot estate at market value

46% of Canadians $200 or less away from financial insolvency: poll

45% cent of those surveyed say they will need to go further into debt to pay their living and family expenses

Most Read