More health care workers got the flu shot this year despite opposition to the new provincial policy

More health care workers got the flu shot this year despite opposition to the new provincial policy

B.C. backs down for now on flu vaccine edict

No punishment for health workers who refuse shots, masks

The province has granted a one-year reprieve from its directive that health workers wear a mask this flu season if they refuse to be vaccinated.

Those who don’t comply won’t be disciplined, deputy health minister Graham Whitmarsh said in a Nov. 30 letter to health authorities.

Enforcement that was to begin Dec. 1 is on hold while the ministry carries out more consultation with unions and other affected staff to help determine how best to fully implement the flu control policy, he said.

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

But unions denounced the policy as a privacy violation, saying the threat of discipline to compel unvaccinated workers to wear masks would have forced them to disclose their decision not to get a flu shot.

Those who did get vaccinated were expected to wear badges or pins to assure patients they were immunized.

Health Sciences Association of B.C. president Reid Johnson said the union encourages its members to be vaccinated but defends their right to choose.

“If they choose not to be vaccinated for any number of factors – including experiences with bad side effects to vaccines and fundamental, philosophical, or religious objections to vaccination – that is their right,” he said.

Rather than enforcing a season-long order to mask up, he said, that step can be taken during an actual flu outrbreak, along with other long-standing options such as relocating staff or having them stay home.

Hospital Employees’ Union spokesperson Margi Blamey said some members questioned the research on the benefits of vaccination, while others refuse to have foreign substances put in their bodies or considered it a human right to make their own decision.

“People were upset and they were upset for a number of reasons,” she said.

Another source of dissent, she said, was that employees were supposed to report on other co-workers who didn’t get the flu shot and weren’t wearing a mask.

“In health care, where you rely on teamwork, that just doesn’t fly.”

Despite the controversy, more health workers did roll up their sleeves for the needle this fall.

According to Kendall’s office, more than 60 per cent of full-time health workers are now vaccinated.

And Fraser Health reported an even higher rate of more than 70 per cent of full-time staff vaccinated as of last Thursday, a number that’s expected to climb further.

A ministry spokesperson called the decision not to enforce in the transitional year a “balanced and measured approach.”

The rule was to apply to hospitals, long-term care homes and other publicly funded health facilities and included health authority staff, doctors, volunteers, students, contractors and vendors who work in patient contact areas.

The ministry will continue to encourage workers to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of flu transmission to vulnerable patients and seniors.

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read