I wish to clarify inaccuracies made by the B.C. Nurses Union representative in your Nov. 16 story, Nurses Object to New Rules on Flu Shots.
All health-care workers are required to have flu shots, or wear an approved mask as part of the new province-wide policy. This includes doctors, nurses, volunteers, students, contractors and vendors: not just nurses, as the union rep stated.
The B.C. Medical Association and physicians on medical advisory committees in our hospitals are strongly supportive of the influenza vaccination policy. These physicians groups, as do many others in health care, believe they have an ethical duty to prevent transmission of infection to vulnerable people.
It is wrong to suggest that those who are pregnant cannot safely be vaccinated; in fact, influenza vaccination is strongly recommended and provided free to pregnant women because they are at higher risk for infection and can infect their newborns, who are also at risk.
People with egg allergies can be safely vaccinated. It is wrong to suggest that improving hospital cleanliness and hand washing would be as effective as vaccination in preventing the spread of the flu. Hand washing is important in preventing the spread of infections, but there is nothing nearly as effective as influenza vaccination in preventing the spread of the flu. Is the flu vaccine 100 per cent effective? No. But it is the most effective tool we have.
All health-care staff can take advantage of their most convenient opportunity to get a free flu shot: at their local pharmacy or grocery store with a pharmacy, at a public health clinic or at their family physician's office. The worksite staff flu clinics are not their only option.
Vancouver Coastal Health does not place a discipline letter in the files of staff who have above-average sick time. The authority expects staff to remain off work if they are sick with an infectious condition. That's the value of the flu shot - staff can avoid using up their sick days.
Finally, despite our best efforts, we have never had more than about 40 per cent of our staff vaccinated each year. Policies such as the one now in place in B.C. have been implemented in many health-care organizations in the U.S., and have been extremely effective in achieving coverage rates of 95 per cent or more, meaning much better protection for patients, which we all want.
Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer Vancouver Coastal Health