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B.C. outlines steps for schools districts wishing to mandate vaccine for staff

Click to play video: 'B.C. School vaccine mandate guidance' B.C. School vaccine mandate guidance
The B.C. Education Ministry has released a 'guidance document' for school districts to aid in the creation and enforcement of vaccine mandates for teachers and other school staff. Richard Zussman reports – Oct 22, 2021

The British Columbia government released guidelines Friday for school districts to follow if they are going to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for staff.

Such a mandate would require teachers, administrators, cleaning staff, educational assistants and other adults in the school system to be immunized.

The province has refused to provide guidance on whether school districts should vote to impose vaccine mandates, instead encouraging all staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

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“Most COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are now among unvaccinated adults. Unvaccinated individuals are nine times more likely to become a COVID-19 case and 40 times more likely to be hospitalized or die,” the guidelines read.

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“The most effective means to protect students from COVID-19 is for adults in their community, including their school community, to be vaccinated. This is particularly true for those students under the age of 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated.”

There has been a growing debate around the necessity for adults in schools to be immunized.

The BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Liberals have raised concerns that allowing districts to decide would create a piecemeal approach.

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Allowing each district to decide would also likely benefit areas with higher rates or immunization while not supporting those with lower rates of immunization.

The guidelines lay out that boards and authorities should allow time for consultation with local partners and should provide sufficient time to allow currently-unvaccinated staff to become vaccinated before final implementation.

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Read more: COVID-19: Is mandatory vaccination for teachers the next front in the school safety battle?

There is a five step process in the documents which state, “If boards and authorities choose not to follow the steps as outlined in this document, they should be aware there may be legal or financial implications.”

The steps include:

  • Gathering initial vaccine data
  • Confirm alignment with legal advice
  • Consult with employee groups and First Nations
  • And ultimately, vote on implementation

“From the beginning of the pandemic we have worked together to keep students safely learning in-class, to encourage all eligible British Columbians to get vaccinated and to make sure school safety plans are robust and supported,” Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said in a statement.

“With guidelines now available, trustees can make decisions around vaccination policies that work best for their communities as we work together to continue to support a culture of vaccination in our schools.”

The guidelines were created by the Ministry of Education and with input from the BC School Trustees’ Association, the BC Teachers’ Federation, CUPE, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the Federation of Independent Schools Association and school district leadership associations in consultation with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.

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