Winter is fast approaching and with the change in weather comes flu season. Like in previous years, the flu shot is a hot topic; some strongly believe in the benefits of the flu vaccine and encourage those around them to get the shot, while others are adamantly against it.
The choice to get the flu shot is slightly different for the general public than it is for health care workers however. As a health care worker there are more factors involved when making the decision to get the flu vaccine or not.
Onye Nnorom, a senior medical resident training at Toronto Public Health in the specialty of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, outlined the factors involved for health care workers when considering the flu shot.
“For health care workers there’s a triple effect: you’re protecting yourself, you’re protecting your family – so that’s for general population, but also you’re protecting your patients,” Nnorom said.
At times there may be controversy surrounding those who choose not to get vaccinated. When that occurs, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) is there to protect the rights of health care workers.
Linda Haslam-Stroud, resident nurse and president of ONA, advocates and protects the rights of health care workers.
“The flu vaccine is an individual right based on arbitration from a number of years ago that identified mandatory flu vaccines infringe on an employee’s right to privacy, and it’s also is an assault of their person,” Haslam-Stroud said.
Still, both Toronto Public Health and ONA strongly encourage health care workers to get the flu shot, a decision backed personally by Haslam-Stroud.
“We certainly encourage our members to take the flu shot if they’re accepting of taking it,” Haslam-Stroud said. “But in addition to that, as far as working with our patients, we have negotiated very clearly protections for our patients, in the collective agreement, if nurses refuse to take the flu vaccine for whatever reason they might choose.”
According to a statement released by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the seasonal influenza vaccine for 2011-2012, they estimate that between five to 10 per cent of the population gets the flu every year.
NACI estimates, “that in a given year up to 20,000 hospitalizations related to influenza may occur; that between 4,000 to 8,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, may die from pneumonia related to influenza; and that others may die from other serious complications of influenza.”
There are some groups of people who are considered to be in a high-risk category. When an individual is placed in the high-risk group it is because they could develop further complications by getting the flu. Some of these people include the elderly, the very young or people who have chronic diseases, according to Nnorom.
“For these particular populations we would specifically highly recommend the flu shot, although it’s for everybody but (especially) those high risk populations,” Nnorom said. “So for the health care workers who are really working with these groups we really want to encourage them to want to have the flu vaccine.”
For more information about the flu vaccine for the 2011-2012 season link to:
Also, for a flu clinic in your area link to: