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B.C. doctors, dietitians have highest COVID vaccination rates; naturopaths lowest

At the high end: 98% of physicians and surgeons report being vaccinated against COVID-19. At the low end: 69.2% of naturopathic physicians.
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Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presented data on the vaccination status of regulated health-care professionals in the press theatre at the B.C. legislature on Tuesday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The vast majority of regulated professionals working in health care in the province are vaccinated against COVID-19, with doctors and dietitians at the top and naturopaths at the bottom, according to B.C.’s health minister.

Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presented data on the vaccination status of regulated health-care professionals in 18 colleges during an update at the B.C. ­legislature Tuesday.

Ninety-eight per cent of members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and College of Dietitians of B.C., are vaccinated against COVID, followed closely by occupational therapists at 96.9 per cent, Dix said.

On average, 94 per cent of regulated health-care professionals are vaccinated or medically exempt.

Dix said the goal of sharing the information is to ensure the public can make informed decisions as they seek treatment or services from a regulated health professional.

The statistics don’t include the College of Nurses and Midwives — with 63,000 members, it accounts for about 46 per cent of the health professionals in the 18 colleges — but Dix said the “vast majority” have been vaccinated. Details are expected in the coming weeks.

The least-vaccinated health-care professional groups include naturopaths at 69 per cent, chiropractors at 78 per cent and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners at 79 per cent.

The province in October said it would make vaccination a condition of licensing for regulated health-care professionals such as surgeons, dentists, chiropractors and massage therapists, but backed away from that position in March.

Instead, it required the colleges to collect and record each registrant’s vaccination status by March 31 and report that to the province.

Health professionals who are not vaccinated will have to disclose their status to their patients, allowing the public to choose whether they want to receive in-person services.

The goal is to make the vaccination status of individual practitioners available, but the details are still being worked out in order to ensure practitioners’ privacy is protected. Henry notes that some patients dependent on health-care services may not feel comfortable asking for a health practitioner’s vaccination status.

Henry said the estimates may be lower than actual vaccination rates, as some colleges have been slower to report registrants’ vaccination status.

COVID-19 vaccination is already required for health-care workers employed in long-term care homes, hospitals and community health centres, but not for those working in private practice.

Henry said the province’s high rate of vaccination “has meant that we have weathered this storm over the last few months without the overwhelming strain on our health-care system that has been seen in some other jurisdictions.”

“But it has not been easy in any way,” she said. “I cannot imagine where we would be if we had not stepped up across this province … by getting vaccinated.”

Three shots, two vaccinations and a booster, are considered the norm to reduce the likelihood of infection and to reduce the severity of illness.

Dix said 78,362 people have received their fourth dose — available to those age 70 and older and those designated as clinically extremely vulnerable. A priority was placed on administering fourth doses last month to people in long-term care.

“It is important to get immunized, to get protected, and now’s the time to do that,” said Henry.

Health Canada is reviewing data submitted by Moderna on a vaccine for children ages six months to five years, and the vaccine could be available “as early as late summer,” said Henry.

COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available in pharmacies around the province.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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Vaccination status of regulated health care professionals, as of April 25:

* dieticians: 98.0%

* physicians and surgeons: 98.0%

* occupational therapists: 96.9%

* pharmacy technicians: 96.8%

* pharmacists: 96.7%

* psychologists: 96.1%

* optometrists: 96.0%

* dentists: 95.9%

* physical therapists: 95.2%

* opticians: 94.9%

* denturists: 92.9%

* speech language pathologists: 92.9%

* dental assistants: 92.8%

* dental hygienists: 92.6%

* audiologists/hearing instrument practitioners: 91.9%

* dental technicians: 90.7%

* massage therapists: 87.9%

* traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists: 79.0%

* chiropractors: 78.1%

* naturopathic physicians: 69.2%