News / Halifax

Nova Scotia Nurses Union president says members opposed to mandatory flu shots

When the 7,000 members of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union were asked how they felt about mandatory vaccinations forming part of contract negotiations, 70 per cent were opposed to having their choice taken away, said union president Janet Hazelton on Monday.

However Hazelton, one of four members of a panel gathered to discuss the ethical issues around vaccines, made it clear that she and the union members were not disputing the science or the importance of public vaccinations when it came to protecting public health.

The panel, held at the Halifax Central Library on Monday evening, was a joint effort between the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs and Dalhousie University’s Health Law Institute to engage the public in a conversation about health security, health policy and civil liberty.

The audience was invited to submit questions on various topics surrounding vaccines, and Hazelton received several about the union’s policies on flu vaccinations and whether or not those policies were in the best interest of the public.

“Immunization is important and there is no disputing that, but there are a list of other problems that need to be addressed along with immunization,” Hazelton responded, citing understaffing levels and subsequent staff burnout.

“There is a lot more to health security than immunization and having your flu shot. There is overcrowding in our emergency departments and these institutions are required to ensure you are cared for safely,” she said.

Hazelton insisted that it was up to the new generation to decide whether they wanted to improve hospitals and healthcare facilities that they might some day occupy.

“Immunization is a drop in the bucket and it is up to young people to choose whether or not anything changes,” said Hazelton.

The panel included Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang, Hazelton, and associate law professor for Health Law Institute Elaine Gibson.

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