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Dr. Henry making changes to previously announced vaccine requirement for private health-care workers

B.C.'s top doc says specifics are being worked out with each regulatory college.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provide an update on COVID-19 on March 10, 2022.

B.C. appears to be easing off its previously announced requirement that all private health-care workers in the province be vaccinated for COVID-19.

During Thursdays' press conference, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced changes to the province's Regulated Health Professionals order, which would have required all health-care workers in the province be vaccinated for COVID-19 by March 24, or have their licences pulled.

While Henry announced her intentions to extend the public health vaccination requirement to the private sector last October, she laid out the March 24 deadline during an announcement last month.

The order would include a wide variety of professions, like dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors, optometrists, psychologists and pharmacists, among others, and the province has been working on the order with 39 regulatory bodies for months.

But earlier this week, Henry issued a new order that requires all regulated professions to disclose their vaccination status to their regulatory colleges by March 31, and Thursday, she said the order will be different from her “original vision.” But the specifics of what that will look like have yet to be worked out.

“We've been working through the specifics with each individual college and based on the risks within each profession, there will be a component of public reporting, and then we will continue to take additional measures as needed, considering the important impact on patients, on communities, from each individual provider,” Henry said.

“We're taking a more nuanced, risk-based approach. For some, that will mean that you must be vaccinated to practice in certain settings. But we're doing that on a more tailored basis to each of the Regulated Health Professions and in a step-wise way.”

While she was unable to provide specifics, she did commit to ensuring patients and clients of “some of the regulated health professions” will be able to know their service providers vaccination status.

Henry did not provide any timeline of when new orders may come into effect with regards to private health-care professionals.

“We have the advantage right now of being in a place where we can take the time to work through it individually with the colleges and with individual registrants in each college,” she noted.

While it appears all private health-care professional may no longer be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the order in place that requires public health-care staff be vaccinated, which took effect last fall, remains in effect. That order resulted in the termination of 895 health-care employees in the Interior alone, who refused to get vaccinated.

“We've seen how important immunization in our health-care sector is," Henry said.

"We are working on ... an ongoing policy that includes COVID immunization, but other immunizations that are important for us in terms of protecting health-care resources, ourselves, as well as making sure that we're doing everything we can to prevent transmission of communicable diseases, vaccine-preventable diseases, in our health-care system.”