B.C. will require all health care workers in the province to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 26, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a press conference Monday (Sept. 13).
Monday’s announcement follows an earlier mandate that all long-term care and assisted living workers must be vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 12. Henry said that expanding the vaccine mandate to all health-care facilities is meant to make it “very clear” that workers who do not wish to be immunized cannot leave long-term care or assisted living for other health care jobs.
“This includes all people, all workers, students, physicians, residents, contractors and volunteers who work in a healthcare facility including contracted facilities, which are accessible to patients and where they receive services,” Henry said, adding that this includes those who provide home and community care. Only health care providers who work in private practice and do not have privileges at a health care facility are not covered by the mandate.
Henry said that there will be a centralized process to seek medical and religious exemptions, which could include frequent testing or being reassigned. In all other cases, full vaccination against COVID-19 will be a condition of employment and workers who choose not to get vaccinated will be put on unpaid leave.
She said that while B.C., and all of Canada, is facing a health care worker shortage, officials believe this measure will be popular and will not lead to a large number of staff leaving.
“This is not going to adversely affect the vast majority of health care workers,” Henry said, adding that vaccination rates among health care staff are above those in the general population.