Mandatory flu measures in B.C. a bitter pill

By Bill Tieleman

We simply don't have good evidence that vaccination of health-care personnel prevents influenza transmission to patients — Prof. Nick Kelley, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Minnesota

Mandatory flu shots or wearing a mask will be required not only for hospital and care-home staff in B.C. but visitors as well when flu season starts.

And that’s just wrong.

Wrong on the science. Wrong on the approach to health-care workers, including doctors and nurses. Wrong for intruding into people’s personal choices about their own health. And wrong on $100-million plus spent on vaccinations that fail at least 41% of the time, perhaps more.

Starting around December, neither visitors nor workers will have any choice — take the shot or wear a mask if you’re in a hospital or care home.

Visitors could be blocked from entering — but workers could be fired, after an arbitrator rejected health-care unions’ objections last week.

“We’re expanding our policy to visitors,” B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall told media last week.

But the science behind both flu shots and masks is simply nowhere near good enough to make such draconian decisions on our rights.

Most flu shot studies are flawed, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota:

“Applying very strict criteria to filter out potential bias and confounding, a U.S. research team sifted through more than 5,000 studies and found only 31 that they felt provided reliable evidence about the efficacy and effectiveness of flu vaccines. The findings were published online today by Lancet Infectious Diseases,” it noted.

And National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses, also opposes mandatory flu shots.

“A 2005 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases study over 20 years found no correlation between increased vaccine use and a decrease in deaths,” NNU co-president Karen Higgins argues.

So how about masks? “Very little information is available about the effectiveness of facemasks and respirators in controlling the spread of pandemic influenza in community settings,” a U.S. government document reports.

Dubious scientific evidence, heavy-handed government intervention, high costs for low results, health-care professionals opposition and an intrusion on personal freedom, all add up to one conclusion: mandatory flu shots or else is just plain wrong.

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