An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
SO B.C.’S NURSES no longer have to have a flu shot or wear a mask when they’re working around patients.
Nurses have been fighting mandatory flu vaccinations for the past seven years. Under a new agreement between the B.C. Nurses Union and the Health Employers Association of B.C., nurses can do what they like.
The rationale against flu vaccinations for nurses is pretty weak. One concern was that wearing a mask might confuse patients with mental health issues. OK, so make an exception.
Another is that mandatory vaccinations or masks are punitive. How is it punitive to enforce best practices in nurse-patient interactions? Hospitals stress the importance of hand sanitizers so why not flu prevention?
And then there’s the one that says it sets a precedent. OK, but in my view it’s a good precedent.
The only argument that makes any real sense is that nurses have a right not to put a vaccine into their bodies. But every job has certain requirements and if we don’t like them we have a right to work somewhere else.
As for me, I’d rather be cared for by nurses I’m confident won’t give me the flu, and most nurses would likely appreciate not getting the flu from me.
The new scenario, though, is supposed to get the same results as the old one. The idea is that a similar rate of immunization or use of masks can be reached voluntarily as it was through enforcement.
Nurses will, theoretically, do the same as they were doing, except it will be because they want to, not because they must.
Either way is OK by me, as long as it works. I hope the union is ready to return to the previous rules if it doesn’t.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.