Nurses’ union, health officer continue fight over mandatory flu-shots


VANCOUVER – Another round of fighting has erupted between British Columbia’s nurses and its health officer after a U.K.-based, non-profit scientific group publicly questioned the evidence used to justify a mandatory flu-shot policy for provincial health-care workers.

Citing a letter in a Vancouver newspaper written by a doctor associated with group known as the Cochrane Collaboration, the BC Nurses’ Union announced Wednesday it has launched a formal grievance over the policy, while also demanding its immediate withdrawal.

But Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s health officer, said he thinks members of the public will be left scratching their heads over the science and called the nurses’ action “undermining.”

This past August, Kendall announced the policy that requires health-care workers to get a flu shot or wear masks during the flu season. Union officials say those who are vaccinated are expected to wear a distinctive badge indicating they’ve had the shot.

“We’re going to base our practice on the best science,” said Debra McPherson, president of the nurses’ union. “Getting an immunization, getting a foreign body shot into your body, should be a matter of choice.

“Certainly for health-care workers where the science is not compelling, it should continue to be their choice and they shouldn’t be coerced or punished for choosing, based on their reading of the science, to not get it.”

In the letter published in The Vancouver Sun, Dr. Tom Jefferson of the Cochrane Collaboration said Kendall misquoted a 2010 review conducted by his organization, when the health officer justified the vaccination of employees as a way to protect patients from the flu and pneumonia.

Jefferson said the Cochrane Collaboration drew no such conclusion.

“In other words, we report that no effect of the influenza vaccines was detectable on influenza and its complications such as death,” he wrote.

He ended the letter with some strong words.

“It is not my place to judge the policies underway in British Columbia, but coercion and forcing public ridicule on human beings (for example by forcing them to wear distinctive badges or clothing) is usually the practice of tyrants,” wrote Jefferson.

The union seized on the opinion and said in a release it “shredded” the rationale behind the policy.

McPherson said in a followup interview that her union has now corresponded with the CEO of Health Employers Association of BC and demanded it step back from the policy.

“If the science isn’t there, how can the employer bring into place a coercive and punitive policy which has people wearing badges indicating whether or not they’ve been vaccinated for the flu,” she said.

But Kendall pointed to several medical journals that he said promote similar policies.

“The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology in the United States, they’ve all called for mandatory immunization of health-care workers,” he said.

He said even though the vaccination isn’t as effective as medical officials originally thought, it’s still about 60 per cent effective, which considerably reduces the chances somebody will pick up the virus and pass it on to patients.

When asked how many patients die each year because they pick up viruses like the flu, Kendall said he didn’t know because the information is not routinely collected.

He even acknowledged the public could be confused by the fight between the nurses and province.

“If I was a member of the public, I’d be scratching my head because it certainly seems very undermining,” he said.

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Nurses’ union, health officer continue fight over mandatory flu-shots

  1. Just to clarify Macleans, you refer to Dr Jefferson as a “doctor” from a “group” known as the Cochrane Collective” The doctor is Dr Jefferson, the lead influenza investigator of the Cochrane. The “group” known as the Cochrane are described by the Lancet as “The most important medical advancement since the discovery of the human genome” The Cochrane are world leading independent statisticians. Kendall uses the good Cochrane name for credibility, and then proceeds to manipulate their findings to serve his own interest…Lets see if any of this sounds familiar: Misinformation and propaganda being fed to the public, Forced medical procedures, Stickers or masks to identify the non compliant, People being encouraged by their government to report behaviour that contravenes the regime…Sound like something that happened about 60 years ago by another tyrannt? vaccination of healthcare workers has been scientifically shown that it will not protect our vulnerable…relinquishing human rights based on lies and deception will surely affect us all.

  2. Since 2005, a number of large studies have concluded that the
    vaccine is only “moderately” effective at preventing influenza A or B and cannot
    prevent the majority of ‘flu-like’ illnesses caused by other viruses.

    In an office visit, your doctor cannot determine whether you
    have true influenza, (i.e. influenza A or B), or one of the 200+ other viruses
    which can cause identical symptoms, commonly known as ‘the flu’. For an accurate
    diagnosis, lab tests are required. Of the hundreds of thousands of samples
    submitted for lab analysis in Canada over the past 12 years, under 12 percent were
    confirmed to be influenza A or B. The vast majority of ‘flu-like’ illnesses are
    NOT caused by the influenza virus. (1)

    The Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group in Rome
    corroborates these facts. Lead researcher, Dr. Tom Jefferson MD affirms
    that, “Cochrane reviews show that vaccines could only affect at
    the most (i.e. if they had 100% efficacy) some 7-15% of the annual flu
    burden, since this is the proportion of people with the flu who truly have
    influenza. Effectively what we are saying is we aim to control a major health
    problem, influenza-like-illness (“the flu”), with a series of preventive
    interventions which can in the best case scenario prevent only 15% of that
    problem, while making people believe we can deal with the lot.” (2)

    Health officials suppress basic these facts about ‘the flu’,
    with the result that the public at large is disempowered from making informed
    health care decisions. Health officials know full well that 85 to 90 percent of
    influenza-like-illnesses (ILI) are NOT influenza, and cannot be prevented by
    the vaccine. The large constellation of ‘flu-like’ illnesses remain free to
    circulate in the population with varying degrees of virulence – much depending
    on the overall health of the individual.

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