British Columbia will continue with a requirement for workers in public service jobs to be vaccinated, which is a departure from what is being done at the federal level.
The decision by the province will ensure everyone working in hospitals and long-term care is vaccinated against COVID-19.
The mandate also includes government workers and liquor store employees but does not include teachers or those working in extended health-care like dentists and physiotherapists.
“Here in B.C., the public service has made the decision to take the initiative. It is at 99 per cent. I think it is totally reasonable to continue down the course and especially in health-care settings,” public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
“We still don’t know what will happen in the fall.”
BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon and BC Liberal Critic for Health Shirley Bond have asked the province to end the mandates.
The pair argue the mandates were never meant to be permanent and Ottawa has set a course for removing the requirement.
As of Monday, federal government workers who have chosen not to get a COVID-19 vaccine returned to work. Workers had previously been put on administrative leave without pay.
There are nearly 2,500 health care workers and other public service employees who are currently unvaccinated.
Public servants in B.C. have a vaccination rate of 99 per cent, partly boosted by the vaccine requirement.
“It is time for the provincial government to follow the science and lead of the federal government, and suspend the temporary vaccine mandate for provincial employees,” Bond and Falcon wrote in a joint statement.
“As we enter an endemic phase it makes no sense to prevent healthcare workers, conservation officers, or those who will be needed on the front line for this year’s wildfire season from working.”
There are approximately 190,000 health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and community health centres in B.C. who must be vaccinated.
The B.C. Public Service Agency includes 30,000 employees falling under the vaccine mandate.
Henry says the mandate in the health-care sector is there to protect the most vulnerable and there are no plans to change it anytime soon.
“We know the highest high-risk people, the most vulnerable people, are in our health-care settings. Whether it is home care, whether is in long-term care, whether it is the critical care units,” Henry said.
“Part of the decision of having this mandate is about protecting the health-care system.”