Flu shot-or-mask rule upheld by arbitrator

Health care workers and visitors in patient care areas will be required to have the current influenza vaccination or wear a mask

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall

Health care workers and visitors in patient care areas will be required to have the current influenza vaccination or wear a mask when the annual influenza season returns in December.

Health care union objections to the policy were rejected by a labour arbitrator’s ruling this week, a decision Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall called “good news for patients.”

The policy can now be enforced for staff across all of B.C.’s health authorities, particularly in long-term care facilities, Kendall said Thursday. Visitors will be on an “honour system” to keep their flu shots up to date or use a mask when they visit friends and relatives, he said.

The current influenza vaccine is available from doctors and pharmacies around the province, and is free to those with chronic conditions or who come in contact with people who are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza. To find out if you are eligible for a free vaccine, see this website, ask your doctor or pharmacist, or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

U.S. health care facilities have similar rules and voluntary compliance of staff members is very high, said Kendall, who has been pushing for the restriction for some time. Health employers now have the option of progressive discipline to make sure employees protect against passing on  influenza virus to vulnerable patients.

“We obviously hope it won’t come to that, because we believe that health care workers do care for their patients,” Kendall said.

The Health Sciences Association, a union representing lab techs and other specialists in the health care system, had argued that its members were entitled to make their own decision on whether to get the annual vaccine. It is formulated each year by international health authorities, based on the dominant strains of influenza that are found around the world.

Kendall said the arbitrator accepted research findings from the University of Minnesota that found the vaccine to be 90 per cent effective in years when it is a “good match” with the virus strain that emerges during winter.

The study found that a less accurate match causes the effectiveness to drop as low as 40 per cent, but Kendall noted that is better than zero protection, which is what skipping the flu shot provides.

Arbitrator Robert Diebolt wrote that given the seriousness of influenza, a severe respiratory condition that causes death in frail elderly people each winter, increasing immunization protection is a reasonable policy for health care facilities.

Just Posted

Kitimat resident is Conservative choice for fall election

Claire Rattée is a former Kitimat councillor

Pacific Traverse Energy to start community engagement

The company will reach out to key stakeholders

RCMP again warns public not to drink and drive

New legislation allows police to breathalyze with drivers’ consent

Rio Tinto donates $50K for Shames Mountain chairlift upgrades

The money was used to purchase the chairlift’s bull wheel replacement last summer

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Most Read