Saturday August 30, 2014

Mandatory shots asking for trouble

If your boss ordered you to get an injection as a condition of employment, would you simply roll up your sleeve and brace yourself for the prick of a needle?

Or would you object to the very idea that someone — anyone, for that matter — had the temerity to try to force you to put a foreign substance into your body?

Such is the gut-wrenching reaction of many B.C. nurses to a controversial edict by Dr. Perry Kendall, the province’s chief medial health officer, making it government policy that health-care workers get a vaccination or be forced to wear a mask during flu season.

The B.C. Nurses Union has taken issue with the rule and has now launched a formal grievance on behalf of its membership.

It’s ironic, because the majority of nurses already get the shot — but not because anybody is holding a syringe to their heads.

They get the flu shot because they have taken the time to weigh the pros and cons of the vaccine and have decided — on their own — to get the shot. They weren’t forced to do so.

Much of the argument made by nurses who shy away from the shot is based on the effectiveness of the vaccine and its possible side-effects — and they are potentially serious.

An allergic reaction to the vaccine can, albeit rarely, cause health problems well beyond the scope of a simple bout with the flu. Serious reactions can result in a variety of physical problems that might lead to an inability to work, lost wages and lingering health issues.

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to be formed inside the body that eventually provide protection against viruses contained in the vaccine. But there’s no certainty that the vaccine being administered will match the strains of the flu that might be making the rounds. Sadly, one of the flu shot’s only guarantees is that it will make the drug companies rich.

Nurses care deeply about their patients. The last thing they want to do is pass on a flu bug that could have potentially disastrous consequences on a patient’s health.

However, they have entirely understandable issues with any edict that involves such a personal intrusion.

Making flu shots mandatory is only asking for trouble. A more co-operative approach would almost certainly have the desired effect. And if there are still some holdouts, they can always wear a mask.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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