Vaccination for staff at B.C. long-term care and assisted living facilities has gone from 90 per cent to 96 per cent since mandatory immunization from COVID-19 was ordered nearly two months ago, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.
The public health order from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry covers nearly 49,000 staff and contractors, and fewer than 2,000 people are left without at least one dose of vaccine, Dix said at a briefing Oct. 12, the day the order took effect. “A significant number” of the unvaccinated workers are casual and not scheduled to work in the weeks ahead, he said.
“The province is working with health authorities and operators on a home-by-home basis to ensure that if workers do not make the decision to get vaccinated, contingency plans are in place to ensure residents continue to get the care they need,” Dix said. “If a long-term care or assisted living worker refuses to be vaccinated, they will be in breach of the provincial health officer’s Residential Care Preventive Measures order, the Public Health Act, and employer policy. It will be subject to progressive discipline up to, and including, termination.”
Henry said a similar order takes effect by the end of October for acute care and community care staff. An advisory posted with public health orders describes the process for applying for a narrowly defined set of exemptions, to be assessed by public health authorities after a doctor or nurse practitioner has signed off.
“I want to thank all of the health care workers who, for your own reasons, may have delayed getting your vaccine but have now taken this important step,” Henry said. “It is not too late. Few know better than those working in long-term care and assisted living what the impact of COVID-19 has been on our seniors and elders, particularly those who live in long-term care.”