In hopes of driving up immunization rates among BC health care
workers, the Government of British Columbia is imposing strict
flu-season requirements on workers who come into contact with
patients at publicly-funded health care facilities or in the
community. Starting with the upcoming flu season, applicable health
care workers (including health-authority staff, physicians and
residents, volunteers, students, contractors and vendors) will be
required to either obtain a seasonal influenza vaccine or to
generally don a mask at all times during the flu season.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall, who
recommended these measures to the Provincial Government, wrote that
less than 50 percent of health care workers are immunized against
influenza each year, despite being in contact with high risk
populations such as seniors, pregnant women, young children, and
the immuno-compromised. Citing evidence from long-term care
facilities that health care worker vaccinations results in
diminished illness and fewer deaths each flu season, the physician
argued that "[g]etting the flu shot should be considered
standard patient safety practice for all health-care workers who
come into contact with patients – as important as
following effective hand hygiene practices, staying home when ill
or wearing a mask in the operating room." British Columbia
will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement such a
According to media outlets, the unions representing health care
workers are generally supportive of vaccinations, although the
British Columbia Nurses Union has said it will not yet formally
respond to the directive and has rather referred to its October
2011 Press Release on the issue where it stated that vaccinations
should be promoted through education, rather than through a
punitive approach by the employer.
A Government of British Columbia "Backgrounder", cites
influenza as causing the most deaths among vaccine-preventable
According to Dr. Kendall, in U.S. jurisdictions where similar
requirements have been imposed, health care worker immunizations
levels have reached approximately 95 percent.
The Government's Press Release, Dr. Kendall's Opinion
Editorial and the BCNU Press Release on Influenza vaccinations can
be accessed at:
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