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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Is vaccination a civic duty?

by Dr. James Talbot

Photo: Is it a civic duty for health care workers with direct patient contact to get immunized? Dr. James Talbot explores this issue and states that health care workers have a duty to the patient, as well as their co-workers and the health-care system and public in general. These individuals have the potential to be leaders and serve as positive examples for their family and friends demonstrating the importance of immunizations. To learn more about civic duty and immunizations, or to join the conversation, visit the IPAC Impact Blog at:

Three things everyone should know about the civic duty of health care workers with direct patient contact to be immunized against influenza:

  1. Health care workers have a duty to the patient. That duty is to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to do no harm and to put the interests of the patient first.

  2. Health care workers have a duty to patients and co-workers to protect themselves from influenza. Doing so decreases the preventable absenteeism that decreases the capacity of the health care system at the very time influenza predictably increases the demand on staffing and the health care system.

  3. Health care workers have a duty to the public. They need to be leaders in demonstrating the importance of immunization so that the public understands the need to protect themselves, their friends, neighbors and relatives, especially those at higher risk for serious complications.

Three myths about influenza immunization:

Myth #1:  I don’t need to get immunized, I’m healthy.

The Reality: Immunizationdecreases illness and absenteeism for healthy adults and provides protection to those they come in contact with who are or who have contact with children under the age of 5, (especially under 2), people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, COPD and heart disease are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza, including death.

Myth #2:  I don’t need to get immunized to protect other people.  If I feel sick I stay at home.

The Reality: Infected individuals are highlyinfectious for 24 hours before they develop symptoms.

Myth #3: The immunization caused me to get influenza.

The Reality: The influenza vaccine contains either inactivated virus or only parts of the virus. It cannot multiply in the body and cause influenza.

As Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Government of Alberta, Dr. James Talbot provides public health expertise to support and promote health surveillance, population health and disease control initiatives, and makes recommendations to the Minister of Health on issues of public health importance.

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