More than three months after promising to require all health-care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the province is finally implementing the policy.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Wednesday family doctors, dentists, chiropractors, physiotherapists and pharmacists will be required to be vaccinated by March 24, 2022.
Henry said there is a process in place for medical exemptions, which can be submitted to her office.
“We have been working with the colleges to sort through the details on the notice we put forward in October. It is about creating a standard,” Henry said.
Health-care workers in acute care and in long-term care are already required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. There is fewer than 3,000 workers province-wide who refused to get vaccinated and were fired due to that decision.
“I think this is a really important measure and has been one of the most important measures that have allowed us to get through the Omicron wave,” Henry added.
“We are getting through this pandemic, but are not through it yet.”
The delay has taken place due to “complications’ working with the various colleges overseeing the professions.”
Most colleges have expressed support for extending the mandate but B.C.’s chiropractors have had some concerns internally.
In December, 78 per cent of delegates at the B.C. College of Chiropractors annual general meeting voted to oppose the provincial vaccine mandate.
The non-binding resolution, submitted by Kelowna chiropractor Mark Foullong, called on the college to “take a stand to protect the right to medical freedom of choice” and “maintain the right to choose medical privacy … free of coercion, manipulation of mandates.”
Following the AGM, the B.C. government noted the voting delegates did not represent the views of the entire industry.
The order applies to the following health professions:
- chiropractic doctors (chiropractors)
- certified dental assistants
- dental hygienists
- dental technicians
- dental therapists
- hearing instrument practitioners
- massage therapists
- naturopathic physicians (naturopaths)
- nurse practitioners
- registered nurses
- occupational therapists
- pharmacy technicians
- physical therapists (physiotherapists)
- physicians and surgeons
- podiatric surgeons (podiatrists)
- licensed practical nurses
- registered psychiatric nurses
- speech-language pathologists
- traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners
This announcement comes as other provinces have announced they are eliminating COVID restrictions.
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine passport program no longer exists and almost all public health restrictions will be lifted on March 1 if the situation in hospitals continues to improve, Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the requirement to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for businesses, workplaces and other public venues will end on Feb. 14.
The public health order requiring the use of facemasks in indoor public spaces will remain in place until the end of February.
However, it is not expected B.C. will follow the same pattern.
“I would suggest that we’re going to follow the same path that we have been on since the end of the pandemic began, and that is to take advice and counsel from public health officials who are working with our acute care system and working with others in the community to make sure that we’re continuing to protect people,” Horgan said.
“Restrictions, direction and advice on restrictions will come from the public health office.”
Horgan added Henry, “has made it clear she has plans for Family Day” and more information will be announced about that next week.