B.C. Civil Liberties Association questions province’s flu shot policy
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is wary of a new provincial policy that will require health-care workers to either get a flu shot or wear a surgical mask to protect patients.
BCCLA policy director Micheal Vonn said the civil-rights group is reviewing the directive, which provincial health officer Perry Kendall announced on August 23.
“It is very, very rarely, if ever, appropriate for the government to be mandating a medical intervention,” Vonn told the Straight by phone.
“The burden to justify why this is needful is very high and that is because what is at issue is the bodily integrity of the citizens involved.”
According to Kendall, the policy is intended to address the fact that less than half of health-care workers typically get vaccinated each year. He said patients in hospital care face greater risks from influenza than the general population.
“This policy will protect patients. Putting in place consistent policies to prevent influenza from spreading is the right thing to do from a patient safety perspective,” Kendall said in a news release.
Vonn said while minimizing the risks to patients is important, the province has yet to fully explain the rationale behind the decision to mandate either vaccinations or the use of masks.
“What is the government pointing to as their evidence to suggest that this novel measure is a proportionate response and that they have appropriately weighed the benefits and the detriments? At this moment we have no idea what the government has taken into account.”
Chris Shaw, a University of B.C. neuroscientist who has questioned the safety and effectiveness of some vaccines, is also skeptical of the new policy.
“The question I have is why is this considered to be the solution? Where is the scientific literature that supports this?” Shaw told the Straight by phone.
“I’m kind of a show-me kind of guy. I don’t take a lot on faith. I need to kind of see numbers and stats and good things like that before I’m going to believe something is true.”
The flu season typically lasts from late November until the end of March. The new policy is set to be introduced this year and will make B.C. the first province in Canada to have such measures.