12/01/2014 09:07 EST | Updated 01/31/2015 05:59 EST

B.C. health-care workers must wear mask or have flu shot by today

Today is the deadline for B.C. health-care workers to get a flu shot or wear a mask while caring for patients, according to B.C. government regulations.

The B.C. Nurses Union says about 75 per cent of health-care workers were vaccinated last year. But president Gayle Duteil says as of last Friday, the vaccination rate this year was significantly lower.

Duteil says the union encourages its members to get vaccinated, but doesn't support the mandatory aspect of the policy.

"It’s about choice," said Duteil.  "Nurses are professionals. They make choices every day in providing safe patient care to British Columbians and they’re entitled to make the choice of whether they want the flu shot or not."

Some health-care experts have questioned the effectiveness of mandatory flu shots arguing the medical literature shows no measurable benefit on flu rates.

Duteil says nurses don't believe requiring nurses to wear masks is a good alternative either. In some cases, she says it could compromise a nurse's safety to be in a mask, particularly when working with paranoid or suspicious patients.

"Nurses face violent situations every day and a mask can lead to problems with patient care."

Duteil says the spread of the flu virus can be controlled by simple hand-washing.

"Hand-washing is the basic premise of infection control practitioners and so it’s very important to maintain infection control practises through the flu season, but nurses want choices."