Photo: Times Colonist / Darren Stone
About 190,000 health workers were required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 under a provincial health order.
BC is sticking to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for civil servants and health workers, even though the federal government has suspended its two-shot requirement for federally regulated workers and travelers.
BC Health Secretary Adrian Dix said he continues to support both last year’s provincial health order, which requires all health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and local health centers to be vaccinated, as well as the executive order that made vaccinations a condition of employment for civil servants.
“I would not expect any change in mandates at some point,” Dix said in an interview Monday.
The Liberal leader in BC, Kevin Falcon, last week called on the BC government to follow Ottawa’s clue to suspend vaccine requirements for provincial and health workers.
“British Columbia is out of step with the rest of the country in this regard,” Falcon said. “We have a situation now that justifies an immediate revocation of the vaccine mandate.”
Falcon said the vaccine requirement exacerbates the critical shortage of health workers who have seen the temporary closure of emergency rooms in the island’s rural areas as well as in the northern and internal health authorities.
About 190,000 health workers – including about 50,000 in long-term care – were to be vaccinated for COVID-19 under a provincial health order. About 99 percent were vaccinated and the rest lost their jobs because they did not.
The BC Public Service Agency demanded that its 30,000 employees be fully vaccinated. By April 20, it said, 402 employees were either unvaccinated or refused to disclose their vaccination status as required by the COVID-19 vaccination policy, and about 150 had lost their jobs.
The agency said Monday that its vaccination policy remains in place, with nearly 99% of employees fully vaccinated. “Since the pandemic is not over and its trajectory remains uncertain, the BC Public Service believes it makes sense to maintain the vaccination policy.”
Falcon said about 2,500 health workers and other government employees are on the sidelines “at a time when the health care system, to use the prime minister’s own words, is crumbling and tipping over.”
Dix said the federal government appears to want to overturn both vaccine mandates, “but I disagree with them.”
The Minister of Health said that the problem is not mandates, but COVID-19, which continues to affect the health system deeply. He said there is an ongoing need to protect residents in long-term care and assisted living, as well as patients in acute care settings and the larger health care system.
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