British Columbia nurses fight mandatory flu immunization

Nurses in British Columbia and a U.K.-based non-profit scientific group launched a formal grievance on Wednesday against a policy that makes flu shots mandatory for provincial health care employees.

The BC Nurses' Union and the Cochrane Collaboration are demanding that the policy be withdrawn. In August, Perry Kendall, British Columbia's health officer, announced a policy that requires healthcare workers to get a flu shot or wear masks during flu season. The employees are expected to wear a badge proving they received the shot, the Canadian Press reports.

The union and the group questioned the science behind the new policy.

"We're going to base our practice on the best science," Debra McPherson, the president of the nurses' union, said, according to the Canadian Press. "Getting an immunization, getting a foreign body shot into your body, should be a matter of choice. Certainly for health-care workers where the science is not compelling, it should continue to be their choice and they shouldn't be coerced or punished for choosing, based on their reading of the science, to not get it."

Kendall said that multiple medical journals promote similar policies that require mandatory vaccination.

"The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology in the United States, they've all called for mandatory immunization of health-care workers," Kendall said, according to the Canadian Press. "If I was a member of the public, I'd be scratching my head because it certainly seems very undermining."

The flu vaccination is approximately 60 percent effective, which could reduce the chances an employee would pick up the virus and pass it on to patients, the Canadian Press reports.