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

Life rings, signs to improve safety on Harrison waterfront

Harrison council approved $125,000 in aquatic safety projects for the beach

PHOTOS: Harrison students take on the Bunny Run

Harrison Hot Springs Elementary students dressed up for the Easter event

No more mobile vendors on Harrison beach

The approval of an updated business licence bylaw means Nolan Irwin is without a cart

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

Chilliwack students take the lead as mental health advocates

About 100 Chilliwack youth prepped to make a difference during Mental Health Week

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison celebrate National Pet Day

From cats and dogs to lizards and chickens, residents showed off the animals that enrich their lives

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Rats available for adoption in Vancouver

In a social media post the City of Vancouver says you can adopt a rat for $5.

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Most Read