British Columbia to require health care workers to get flu shots

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Flu season is here and for the first time, health care workers in British Columbia will be required to get the influenza vaccine, an effort aimed to protect ailing patients with whom they might come into contact. In the past, flu shots have been voluntary and less than 50 percent of health care workers opted to receive it. The specifics of the regulations haven t been released yet, however, and a union representing workers is balking at the requirement.

Wouldn t it be simpler just to have a slave labor force? Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, told the Toronto Star. I think the health-sector overlords might want to reflect on the fact that their staff are not serfs and should enjoy the same right to make decisions about their bodies and what they ingest as any other citizen.

But Dr. Brian Goldman, a columnist with the CBC, scoffs at this hyperbole. I don't think free choice is infinite, he writes. Being a health care worker is a privilege with responsibilities that go with the territory. I see mandatory flu shots as something you do when voluntary measures don't work. I'm just sorry it's come to that.

ACSH agrees and hopes New York City will follow the lead of British Columbia and Rhode Island in requiring health care workers to get vaccinated. This month s City Health Information, a publication of the city s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is devoted to the importance of flu vaccinations for all healthcare personnel but it never takes the obvious next step and says they ought to be required as a condition of employment, notes ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. It s just, please, pretty please, we hope you ll get vaccinated.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom finds the idea of complete freedom of choice coming with a job to be ridiculous. He says, Restaurant workers do not have a choice about washing their hands after they use the bathroom. English teachers had better speak English, and you can t be blind and be a taxi driver, although this is not always apparent.