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

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Emergency services were on the scene of an apparent stabbing Friday afternoon (June 11) in the 2400 block of Countess Street in Abbotsford. (Photo: Kaytlin Harrison)
Two suspects arrested after apparent stabbing in Abbotsford

Incident occurs Friday afternoon in 2400 block of Countess Street

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read