All health-care workers and volunteers will soon have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in British Columbia as the provincial government expands its immunization program.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that additional pandemic measures are needed to fight the spread of COVID-19.
She said the vaccine mandate will take effect Oct. 26 and it will be a condition of employment for all workers, physicians, contractors and volunteers in health facilities. It also applies to people who work in home and community care locations, including client homes.
The province is also giving third vaccine doses to severely immunocompromised individuals.
Dr. Henry says about 15,000 British Columbians who are severely immunocompromised will receive a third dose in accordance with guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. They include those who've received an organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Join Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, for an update on COVID-19. https://t.co/3olfxTVBTm— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) September 13, 2021
Dr. Henry said experts are reviewing data to better understand the risks to another 120,000 people who are moderately immunocompromised.
The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association called for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for health-care workers more than a month ago, saying it would be an "additional measure to protect patients, the health workforce and health-care system capacity."
Henry said outbreaks in acute care settings are disruptive, especially because of a shortage of workers, and there is a need to protect patients.
There are small pockets of unvaccinated workers, but her office has had challenges getting information on immunization from acute care facilities, she added.
Henry has already issued an order for all health-care staff in long-term care and assisted-living facilities to be fully vaccinated by mid-October. Henry said she'd heard concerns that those workers would leave for acute care settings in order to avoid vaccination, but that will no longer be an option.