Here’s the deal with the COVID-19 vaccine for provincial health care workers – they do not have to get vaccinated to work.
While Interior Health (IH) encourages all health care workers to get the shot, immunizations are recommended, but not mandatory in British Columbia.
“We would also note that some people, including health care workers, cannot get immunized,” an IH media spokesperson told the Trail Times, adding, “there are stringent PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) requirements in place for all health care workers that must be followed to prevent transmission of COVID-19.”
The health authority points out PPE requirements have been in place during the pandemic and all health care workers continue to follow them, regardless of immunization status.
“Proper use of PPE has been effective at protecting both residents/patients and health care workers from COVID-19,” IH said.
This clarification follows correspondence from a reader concerned that certain health care workers are not being vaccinated.
“A friend’s husband is in long-term care in Trail,” the reader began. “She claims that many of the staff at his nursing home declined the COVID vaccine,” she wrote. “Most like me have presumed that those working with the vulnerable in health and long-term care facilities (including nursing homes, hospitals, etc.) would have been required to get the vaccine.
“Their need to protect themselves and their frail clients necessitated that they be first qualifiers first for vaccination. It was a matter of public safety.”
This reader found it shocking to learn that health care workers, “our pandemic heroes,” she said, have the option to refuse the COVID vaccine.
Besides Interior Health, the Times also contacted the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) and the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) for further clarification on their stance regarding COVID-19 vaccination.
“COVID-19 vaccines have been highly effective in making long-term care and assisted living safer for residents and workers,” HEU spokesperson Mike Old replied. “And vaccination rates among health care workers has been high despite the fact that vaccinations are voluntary.”
He said the union expects that vaccination rates among health care workers will continue to rise.
“We strongly encourage health care workers to get the vaccine, and we support the health ministry and the Provincial Health Officer in their decision to make vaccinations voluntary,” Old said.
“Education and access are the best approach to ensuring even higher levels of vaccination among health care workers, visitors to long-term care and all British Columbians.”
Kent Hurl, BCNU spokesperson, guided the Times to the union’s vaccination statement, which can be read in full online at: BCNU.org.
“While vaccination provides an important layer of protection against influenza and COVID-19, the BCNU believes that education and encouragement are the most ethical and appropriate means of achieving high vaccination rates for nurses, other health care workers and the general public,” the union collectively states.
“Nurses in B.C. have a unique opportunity to help educate the public on the risks and benefits of available vaccines, the importance of ensuring safety and efficacy in the development of COVID-19 and other vaccines, and the possible outcomes of forgoing vaccination.”
Interestingly, the Government of Canada’s key website – Canada.ca – under “Immunization of workers: Canadian Immunization Guide for healthcare professionals,” has not been updated to contain information regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
The government, however, does recommend – not demand – vaccination against specific vaccine-preventable diseases to protect the worker and/or reduce transmission of infection to others.