Should Flu Shots be Made Mandatory for Healthcare Workers?

November 21, 2012 :: Dan Johnson
Moderated by Knud Petersen

Recently, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to implement a policy requiring health-care employees working at publicly funded facilities, including long-term care homes, to get a flu shot or wear a mask to protect patients during the flu season. This policy has been applied elsewhere, at some other major health centres. The B.C. Nurses’ Union has taken issue with that policy and is fighting to keep the vaccinations voluntary.

Arguments against flu shots include objections to the government forcing anyone to be vaccinated, as a matter of principle. Some of those against mandatory flu shot vaccination state that they do not believe the vaccination is effective in preventing influenza, and that serious reactions, although rare, may occur. Some do not trust the safety of the ingredients.

Arguments for flu shots include patient protection through reduction of transmissions to those who are not able to be vaccinated, and through herd immunity, in which the vaccination of a sufficient proportion of the population can protect those who are vulnerable (including infants and the elderly that potentially could die should they come in contact with the virus). Studies of efficacy and degree of effectiveness for different age groups exist, and indicate moderate but useful value of vaccines.

Speaker: Dr. Dan Johnson

Dan is interested in data, evidence, and science-based policy. He has agreed to start off the discussion. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia (Institute of Resource Ecology), and BSc in Biology from the University of Saskatchewan. He is a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Lethbridge, where he teaches biogeography, evolution, environmental science, data analysis and experimental design. He conducts research on pathology (he notes “not human pathology”) and other topics. Dan is a member of the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board, and has served with a wide range of organizations, government agencies, NGO’s and scientific societies. He promotes Public Understanding of Science, and is one of the organizers of the Public Professor column in the Lethbridge Herald, 2009-2012.

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