Health-care workers must get flu shot to prevent spread among patients, seniors

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VICTORIA - British Columbia has become the first province to implement a policy requiring health-care workers to get a flu shot or wear a mask to protect patients.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall says the measure is being implemented this season for staff at publicly funded facilities including long-term care homes because less than half of health-care workers get vaccinated.

Kendall says the flu causes more deaths every year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined and hospitalized patients and seniors are more vulnerable to complications from it than the rest of the population.

Dr. Bonnie Henry of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says patients shouldn't have to worry about getting sick from their care providers, including doctors.

Flu season typically runs from late November or early December to the end of March.

The flu shot is provided for free in B.C. to high-risk populations including seniors, aboriginals, people with chronic health conditions and those with compromised immune systems.

Organizations: B.C. Centre

Geographic location: VICTORIA, British Columbia

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