Vaccinations for this year’s flu season will be injected into Kamloops arms as of Nov. 1.
While many seniors, children, people with compromised immune systems and their caregivers will be seeking out the free shots, health-care workers themselves continue to deal with policies that force them to get the shot or wear a mask.
Margi Blamey, Hospital Employees’ Union spokeswoman, said Monday the policy calling for workers to get vaccinated or wear a mask came out last year, but then was dropped.
In July, health-care unions were notified that a revised flu-shot policy was out that made a few changes to last year’s attempt, but it still boils down to workers getting the shot or wearing a mask, she said.
Flu season is roughly defined as November to March.
Some of the sticking points in the original policy, such as staff being required to tell on co-workers who weren’t in compliance, or those who didn’t get the shot having to wear an identifying sticker, are gone.
But visitors are now added to those required to vaccinate or mask up.
The masks get humid inside and make it harder to communicate with patients, Blamey said.
The Health Sciences Association launched a grievance against the policy last year and an arbitrator’s ruling is still awaited.
“To my knowledge, nobody used masks (last year). A couple spots it was reported where workers were getting some pressure from their bosses,” she said.
HEU and the B.C. Nurses Union both advocate vaccinations for their members. But they don’t think it should be required.
“We support all the principles of stringent patient care. But we’re still not convinced that the scientific evidence is there for massive immunization of health-care workers,” said Margaret Dhillon with the BCNU.
“As far as we know, there’s been no definitive research to show the correlation between one and the other.”
The time for health-care workers to get their shots is now, so the vaccine has time to become fully effective before flu season hits, she said.
“This year, we’re saying, hang tough until we get more information,” she said.
On the other side of it, the flu clinics for the public are scheduled and those qualified for the free shots in Kamloops can get them as of Nov. 1.
Public health nursing team leader Shelley O’Grady said she hasn’t heard of any flu outbreaks in Kamloops yet.
This year’s vaccine contains influenza A California, A H3N2 and B Massachusetts.
Seniors, children six months to five years of age, people who are immuno-compromised, caregivers, pregnant women, people who work with poultry, the morbidly obese and aboriginal people are among those eligible for the free shots.
This year, kids can get the flu mist in their nose instead of a needle, O’Grady said.
“We think the flu vaccine is really safe and the reactions are very minimal especially compared to the risk of getting the flu,” she said.
“Flu itself can be really nasty but it can lead to secondary infections like pneumonia.”
And, of course, there are other ways of preventing the flu, such as vigilant handwashing.
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Kamloops flu clinics start next month
Interior Health is offering a variety of times and locations available for those qualified to get their free flu vaccination.
In Kamloops, the schedule is as follows:
* Nov. 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tournament Capital Centre, 910 McGill Rd.
* Nov. 7 and 8, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Kamloops Full Gospel Tabernacle, 1550 Tranquille Rd.
* Nov. 14 and 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Calvary Community Church, 1205 Rogers Way
* Nov. 18, 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Kamloops Public Health Unit, 519 Columbia St.
* Nov. 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Kamloops Full Gospel Tabernacle, 1550 Tranquille Rd.
* Nov. 25, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Calvary Community Church, 1205 Rogers Way
* Dec. 2 and 16, and Jan. 6 and 20, 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Kamloops Public Health Unit, 519 Columbia St.
For flu clinics in other communities within the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap, go online to www.interiorhealth.ca/YourHealth/Immunization/SeasonalFluCampaign/Pages/FluClinics.aspx