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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley beekeepers on alert for giant honeybee-murdering hornets recently sighted

Aldergrove beekeeper Bryn Jones ‘concerned’ after South Langley giant Asian hornet sighting

McLeod Athletic Park still closed as $5 million upgrades near completion

Park will host National Track and Field Championships and BC High School Championships

Beatniks Bistro donates $4,000 to Langley School District Foundation

Executive director Susan Cairns said $32,500 is spent every week to help feed Langley families

Solidarity demonstration planned for Abbotsford on Friday

People gathering to protest police brutality and systemic racism in downtown Abbotsford

Real estate market sees ‘thaw’ in Langley

Sales are still low, but are rebounding

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Aldergrove Star to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

B.C. NDP says Andrew Wilkinson is wrong about federal link

Most Read