B.C. health minister defends mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for health-care workers

B.C.’s health minister is defending a provincial order requiring all health-care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of next month amid surging cases brought on by the Delta variant.

“We can’t have a situation, given the seriousness of COVID-19 and its impacts, where people are working without vaccination,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said during a Tuesday briefing.

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed plans for the new order a day earlier, requiring vaccinations by Oct. 26 for all health-care workers.

A separate provincial order issued last month requires workers at assisted living and long-term care facilities to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12.

About 49,000 British Columbians live in either assisted living or long-term care facilities, which have disproportionately been the homes of those who have succumbed to COVID-related deaths.

More than 90 per cent of physicians in the province have been fully vaccinated, according to Henry, while the Hospital Employees’ Union says more than 90 per cent of its members have been vaccinated.

Dix was repeatedly pressed on concerns the province or regions within the province would face labour shortages if health-care workers choose not to get vaccinated by the October deadlines.

“We don’t want to lose anybody,” he said. “But the reality of it is … [immunization] is essential in these times.”

Dix added “it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll be ready” without offering further details on the province’s plans to ensure it was not facing a shortage of health-care workers in the event people choose not to get vaccinated by the October deadlines.

— With a file from Stefan Labbé

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