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COVID-19: B.C. firms up mandatory vax plans for provincial workers

Bureaucrats and health-care workers in assisted living, long-term care face vaccination requirements
Photo: Getty Images

B.C. bureaucrats and health-care workers soon face varying vaccination deadlines if they wish to keep their paycheques coming in this fall. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spent a Tuesday briefing sharing further details about a provincial vaccine mandate for workers at assisted living and long-term care facilities to be vaccinated by October 12.

“Those who are not vaccinated will be off work without pay,” she said.

“If you do then decide to get your first dose, it will be seven days before you’re able to return to work with additional precautions.”

Anyone hired after October 25 will need to be fully vaccinated to work in long-term care or assisted living.

Those hired between October 12 and 26 must have a single dose, while a second dose must come within 28 to 35 days after the first dose

“We know vaccination rates are high, but in some places they are not high enough,” Henry said.

During Tuesday’s briefing, Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed vaccination rates within separate health authorities, divided between long-term care and assisted living, for health-care workers currently range from the high 80s to high 90s for first doses.

Earlier in the day, the province announced 30,000 bureaucrats would need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22 or face the possibility of disciplinary action that could include termination.

“As more employees return to their regular workplaces later in the fall, this provides an additional and reassuring layer of protection for workers who are continuing the vital work of serving British Columbians,” the province said in a Tuesday morning news release.

And with the Thanksgiving weekend ahead, Henry urged British Columbians to “please keep your groups small this year” to help stymie the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Henry also revealed the province will be expanding availability of COVID-19 booster shots to 100,000 British Columbians who are immunocompromised.

She said health officials have been in touch with specialists treating specific people eligible for the third dose and will be sending out invitations for the additional shot.

Henry announced last week that booster shots would begin rolling out this month for those in assisted living or long-term care.

She also confirmed the province’s immunization teams will provide influenza shots to these residents along with the COVID-19 booster shots.

Regarding whether those over the age of 60 who might require booster shots — not just those in long-term care or assisted living — Henry said the province is taking into considerations who will benefit most, the best timing and who’s at most risk.

Henry acknowledged many British Columbians who received mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines – Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna Inc. (NYSE:MRNA) — or the AstraZeneca plc dose vaccine have been inquiring about the potential for a third dose.

The mixing of vaccines — a tactic B.C. used to expedite widespread vaccinations — might create some problems for British Columbians wishing to travel internationally into countries that don’t accept the practice or have not approved a vaccine already given the green light in Canada.

Henry said she has been in contact with Ottawa about creating an internationally recognized vaccine passport.

Meanwhile, B.C. will be returning 300,000 of mostly the Moderna Inc. (NYSE:MRNA) vaccine doses to the federal government, which will in turn be donating those doses to the COVAX global-sharing initiative.

“These vaccines are not required at this time in B.C.,” she said.

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