It’s a question of individual rights versus collective rights. The evidence is far from perfect, and the issue highly divisive among health care workers.
The influential Canadian Medical Association Journal raised many eyebrows when it recently took the position that all people who work in a health care institution be vaccinated for influenza.
The CMAJ’s Dr. Ken Flegel says the views are those of the editors of the Journal, not that of the Canadian Medical Association. There’s a good reason for that – most doctors do not get the annual flu shot. Speaking to a Toronto meeting of the National Union’s Canadian Health Professional Secretariat on November 20, Flegel laid down a challenge to the group: increase voluntary vaccination rates to avoid having the flu vaccine made mandatory in your province.
British Columbia is the first Canadian province to take that step — a move health care workers in that province are challenging. While many support the need for broader vaccination rates, most unions are reluctant to give up the autonomy of health care workers to decide what goes into their body.
In Ontario many health care employers have defacto mandatory requirements – if you don’t get the shot, you don’t work under certain circumstances. Others are more willing to move unvaccinated health care workers to environments where there is less risk to patients or suggest that workers use up vacation credits when an outbreak takes place.
According to Flegel about 40 per cent of Canadian health care workers take the annual vaccine despite the fact that 10 to 20 per cent of health care workers are likely to get the annual influenza.