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

VIDEO: Pipeline opponents leave jars of water from ‘threatened’ coastlines outside Surrey MP’s office

More than 30 people rallied against Kinder Morgan’s project outside MP Ken Hardie’s locked constituency office Friday

Break-in at White Rock pet-supply store

Critters & Friends targeted overnight Tuesday

VIDEO: Fire shuts down 232 Street in Langley

Traffic being re-routed following Langley structure fire

Bookkeeper charged with fraud after allegedly pocketing $200K, Surrey police say

RCMP say they’re not naming former employee in order to protect identity of victim company

VIDEO: Cute Cloverdale puppies celebrated on National Puppy Day

Celebrating Cloverdale’s canines on National Puppy Day

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

B.C. pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions from around B.C. for National Puppy Day 2018

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

B.C. officials failed to tell Kiwis Fraser Health CEO had been fired in 2014

New Zealand spending scandal exposes Dr. Nigel Murray 2014 exit from B.C. job

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

Most Read