Pregnant teachers demanding shots or leave

Shortage of vaccine heightening concern among immunized

Teachers’ unions in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan are expressing concern that their members have not been immunized against H1N1 influenza because they are felt to be part of the general population and not part of an at-risk group.

The Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union is asking the government to send pregnant teachers home until they are vaccinated. “It’s irresponsible to expect our pregnant teachers to come to the workplace every day and risk exposure to the virus,” said NSTU president Alexis Allen. In Quebec, the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail has identified pregnant teachers, daycare workers and hospital workers as eligible for protective leave until they receive the vaccine.

However, Quebec school boards are wondering who will make up the cost of hiring supply teachers if a large number of pregnant teachers qualify for leave.

In Saskatchewan, the Teachers’ Federation is concerned that its members are not included when students are vaccinated. The issue is compounded because some parents are choosing not to immunize their children.

Schools, daycares and health facilities present special cases. They are all places where disease is present and (despite our best efforts) often easily transmitted. Hospital workers are expected to work under the possibility of infection, but they have been placed near the top of the vaccination list. Teachers and daycare workers are at greater risk for exposure than the general public, and might put other vulnerable people in danger if they are infected, but they are not prioritized.

Of course, much the same might be said about anyone in a service setting. Wait staff, bus drivers and retail clerks all come into contact with many individuals in a workday. (One of the suggestions for avoiding the flu is keeping out of crowds.)

Businesses are also being chastised for not having pandemic plans in place. However, they are primarily to allow the business to continue running and not to stem the tide of infection.

This seems to be part of the communications strategy apparent from the first identification of the H1N1 flu that concentrated on destroying any sense of complacency in the general public. But, having convinced most of us that we must get vaccinated because to fail to do so would be not only foolish but irresponsible, a population that is primed and eager is being told that there is no vaccine and that they will have to wait. A demand has been created that cannot be filled.

Accusations of queue-jumping are being made daily and the flu season has only begun.

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