HALIFAX -- Unionized nurses in Nova Scotia are encouraging the public to get COVID-19 vaccinations, saying it's a necessary step to help overcome the novel coronavirus.

To help convince as many people as possible, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union launched a campaign Friday featuring nurses who have been fully immunized. The union has uploaded a series of video testimonials to its website that offer insight and firsthand accounts from nurses who discuss their vaccinations.

"We did it because we believe that our patients look up to nurses and physicians, they look up to us for direction," union president Janet Hazelton said in an interview. "We think it's important that we get the message out that the nurses' union supports the vaccine."

Hazelton said while the majority of people are keen to get a shot there are still some who are "vaccine hesitant," adding that the union wants the public to know its members are confident the vaccine is safe and effective.

She said the union sees the campaign as a natural extension of its mandate and that it has created public service ads in the past encouraging people to get a flu shot.

Hazelton said annual flu vaccination rates among health Nova Scotians are usually relatively low -- except this year, she said, which has seen a large uptake. People, however, need to be far more willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine than they are with the flu shot, she added.

"We don't and can't have that same (lower) percentage for the COVID-19 vaccine," Hazelton said. "We need to have higher than 50-60 per cent."

Front-line nurses were among the first to be vaccinated in Nova Scotia and Hazelton said so far none of her members have refused to get a shot.

And while the union says it's possible some nurses may not get the vaccine for health or personal reasons, Hazelton said there could be consequences, such as being required to wear personal protective equipment at all times in health facilities and being restricted from patient interactions.

She said while the union always backs its members, there are limits when it comes to common sense and safety. Hazelton said it's unclear how employers will handle cases of health-care workers refusing vaccinations.

Some health facilities, she said, may prevent unvaccinated nurses from working with vulnerable patients in geriatric units, for example. "That would not necessarily be an unreasonable approach for the employer to take."

The union represents over 7,800 licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.