VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — At a time when the unvaccinated make up the vast majority of the critical care cases across the province, there are concerns over the BC Nurses Union’s (BCNU) position on a new vaccine mandate for health care workers.
Nearly 50,000 long-term and acute care workers have until Oct. 12 to be fully vaccinated. About 150,000 other workers in provincial health care facilities have until Oct. 26 to do so.
If they do not get their shot, they will be placed on unpaid leave, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday, adding the vast majority of health care providers are already vaccinated and this order mostly applies to the minority who are not.
Aman Grewal, BCNU vice president says the union will be fighting the mandate.
She says the job or jab message from the province is problematic because some nurses are choosing not to get the shot due to medical reasons.
“We are talking about the 20 per cent. You know, nurses, young nurses, they are family planning, some are breastfeeding, others have medical conditions as well, they are thinking about their future,” she said.
“There are those who are not comfortable with the vaccine. They say they have read the science, but they are not satisfied with the science that is out,” Grewal said. She added, “long-term effects have not been determined yet because this is such a new situation that we are faced with.”
Vaccines safety research
The message regarding vaccine safety and pregnancy is one many medical professionals and researchers have been working to address.
Dr. Chelsea Elwood, who is physician and UBC professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology is among the leading researchers studying COVID-19 and pregnancy within the Canada Perinatal Surveillance System study.
She says pregnant people are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and are 10 times more likely to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit than non-pregnant people.
In December 2020, experts made the official recommendation that people who are pregnant should get the vaccine. The research explains why was also made publicly available. In May, the province of B.C. prioritized pregnant people to receive the vaccine over the general population to protect them from severe outcomes of the virus.
“We know pregnant women and persons are at a higher risk of running into complications from COVID-19,” Elwood explained. She says the data shows a pregnant person has the age equivalent of a 55-60 year old.
Family planning concerns
When it comes to fertility, she says they have not seen any link between infertility and the COVID-19 vaccine.
She says regardless of what a person’s reasons are to not get the vaccine, the research shows getting COVID-19 is far and beyond more dangerous for a pregnant person than the vaccine.
And if someone’s reason for not getting the jab is family planning, she says contracting an infectious disease, particularly COVID-19, can actually be more of a risk to someone trying to get pregnant.
“Their fertility is often impacted afterwards as they are recovering from their significant illness. That is very clear. We know that that happens and the best way to prevent you from ending up in critical care or in the hospital from COVID-19 is to get the vaccine.”
Misinformation adding to confusion
Another doctor, who specializes in fertility, says he doesn’t understand why any health care professionals would be anti-vaccine with the information they have.
Dr. Gary Nakhuda, with the Olive Fertility Centre, says the misconceptions on vaccine safety is something he has to address in his practice.
“Obviously nurses do incredible work, and they are advocates for patient’s health in every other way, but when there is concern about the vaccine from the small minority of nurses I think it confuses patients further,” he said.
“When it is coming from people who are supposed to be authorities in the field and are supposed to be advocates of health… then that type of negative messaging becomes even more powerful,” Nakhuda said.
“It’s hard for me to understand why you would be of that opinion when you are generally in medicine and science-based,” he said.
Both doctors say they understand the hesitancy can come from a place of fear, and they actively work with each patient to ensure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Nakhuda says he faced that uncertainty daily when the vaccine was new, and three was little research to show the outcomes.
But now that research shows it is safe, and is beyond debate, he says it is frustrating trying to convince someone who denies scientific fact.
“I think once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to change people’s minds and hearts once they are made up,” he said.