Details to come on mandatory vaccines for all B.C. health care workers

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says we can expect to see mandatory vaccines for provincial health care workers in the coming days. Vaccines are already mandatory for workers in long term care homes.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) –Reaction is pouring in after word the province would mandate vaccines for health care workers.

The head of the BC Care Providers Association is pleased to hear long-term staff are no longer the only workers who must show proof of immunity.

“Well, the sooner the better and as I say, I think they could do it tomorrow for all new hires. That would make a lot of sense because, then, you know, we wouldn’t lose anybody over the next week, two weeks, three weeks –whatever it is to implement,” Terry Lake said.

“We’ve been asking for this because we we are very concerned that we would lose health care aides and nurses to the acute sector with a mandatory vaccination policy in seniors’ care, but not throughout the sector, so it’s very, very good news,” Lake said. Alberta has already announced all health care workers in that province must be vaccinated by Oct. 31.

In Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry say they are working on a plan to ensure all health care workers are vaccinated.

“We know that there are some settings where it is incredibly important to prevent transmission of this virus,” Henry said when asked if this is on her radar.

“Mandating any medical procedure is something that we don’t do lightly. We look at the risk and we do it proportional to risk. Long-term care is a setting where if the virus gets into that setting from somebody who is non vaccinated… it can have a tremendous effect on the health of the people, on residents particularly and we know how serious that can be,” Henry said.

The province announced in early August all long-term care workers would have to be vaccinated by Oct. 12. The order also includes volunteers and personal service providers, but did not extend to nurses or other health care workers.

Now, the province says it is taking steps to make that required.

“From acute care to long-term care we know it’s most dangerous,” Henry said about the risk of transmitting the disease to those who are most vulnerable.

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Henry explained that there are some other steps that need to be taken before it can move beyond long-term care.

She says, “obviously there’s labour relations issues that we need to work through, and we have been working those through with the unions and others so you will hear something about that very soon.”

“I think the message to health care and everywhere else across the board is to get vaccinated,” Dix said Tuesday.

Read more: Return to normal hinges on vaccination rates: new COVID B.C. modelling

The province provided more details Tuesday on COVID-19 modelling which showed while younger people still make up the majority of the cases, deaths are still high in the older populations.

“The numbers of people who are being hospitalized around the province right now are highest in the 40 to 59 year age group,” Henry explained. 

But a small increase in immunization will help bring hospitalization cases down, which is why Henry urges the thousands of British Columbians holding out from getting their shot, to get one right away.

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