Conflicting flu shot rules confuse B.C. heath-care workers

Mandatory immunization rules present a challenge

British Columbia’s front-line health professionals must either get the flu shot this year or wear a surgical mask in patient areas. Except it’s okay if they don’t. Such is the confusion in B.C. hospitals and clinics after the ministry of health watered down its controversial policy of mandatory flu shots for health workers who deal with patients.

The province originally announced the policy in August to combat low vaccine coverage among health workers. At the time, B.C.’s chief medical officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, said it would protect patients from contracting influenza, which causes more deaths than any other vaccine-preventable disease. An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal praised the move, but B.C.’s major health unions fought it, arguing it infringed on worker’s rights and liberties.

On Dec. 4, the health ministry suspended the enforcement of the new policy for one year. That’s left “considerable confusion,” says Bonnie Pearson of the Hospital Employees Union, which helped negotiate the temporary compromise. Some employers are still telling workers to wear a special badge if they don’t get the shot, even though that part of the policy has been suspended, she says. Pearson argues a mandatory policy can have the opposite effect: “It’s that kind of a perverse ‘I’m not going to do it because you tell me I have to’ argument,” she says.

There’s been an upside to the controversy: more workers now get immunized than before. In the Fraser Health region, 70 per cent of full-time health professionals got a flu shot this season, compared to the typical 35 to 45 per cent. Province-wide, the figure is 60 per cent, suggesting a flu shot boom among health workers. Other provinces considering similar rules for their doctors and nurses are no doubt taking note.




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Conflicting flu shot rules confuse B.C. heath-care workers

  1. The flu campaigns are ideologically driven, not evidence driven and
    that is a terrifying predicament for our patients and their health care
    workers. It is a quaint notion that a vaccinated healthcare workers
    protects our elderly, however, there is no credible evidence to prove
    this correlation. Look at gold standard vaccines…mumps, hepatitis,
    smallpox etc…do they have these battles over efficacy? of course
    not..that’s because they are low variant viruses that you can
    effectively control with vaccination.

    Do not mistake quantity, for quality of evidence regarding this vaccine.
    Michael Osterholm, director of Center of Center for Infectious Disease
    Research as well as its Center of Excellence in Influenza Research, did
    the most extensive meta analysis of influenza studies between 1967 and
    2011. Out of 5707 studies, he found only 31 were conducted with
    scientific credibility. He found that even when the vaccines were
    perfectly matched, they provided relative (not absolute) protection of
    59%. This performance was worse in years when the vaccines were not
    matched. Osterholm goes on to say that in order for a vaccine to be
    considered efficacious it must have between an 85-95% efficacy. “if this
    were a measles vaccine, it would be a failure”

    Osterholm said this to the New York Times: “We have overpromoted and overhyped
    this vaccine,”It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job:
    it’s all public relations.”

    Did Perry Kendall make a conserted effort to ensure BC’s policy is navigated by the 31 studies that have been deemedcredible, or are they relying on research that has been determined to be of poor quality? The answer is no. In fact, When perry doesnt have the
    evidence, he makes it up! He took a Cochrane meta analysis that found
    that “there is no evidence that vaccinating Health Care Workerss prevents influenza in elderly residents in Long term care facilities” He was publically humilated when a Cochrane researcher publically admonished him in the Vancouver Sun.
    see http://health-evidence.ca/articles/show/16385.

    And how about Fraser Valley’s Cheif very unobjective medical officer Paul Van Buynden- He was found to have a cozy relationship with big pharma on the day the controversial program was scrapped..It was all very public and messy in the Vancouver Sun

    No wonder everyone is confused…The whole thing is an embarrassing melange of personal opinions, not evidence. There has never been a credible study to show that vaccination for influenza helps our vulnerable population. Its a sweet, santimonious idea…However, Its about as effective as a rabbits foot

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