B.C.’s Ministry of Health confirms that the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers in the public system and care homes stands, a clarification it’s making in the wake of confusion over a bureaucratic change.
On Friday, the office of the provincial health officer published a notice that regulators and colleges of health care professionals are not required to get the vaccination status of nurses, dentists, psychologists, doctors and others, but that doesn’t change the fact the workers must be vaccinated.
British Columbia is one of the few provinces to maintain a requirement for publicly-employed health care professionals to be vaccinated against the virus, though it dropped the requirement for other public employees.
There’s been widespread speculation and confusion as to the meaning of the order dated July 14, which is a brief notice that “collection and disclosure by the colleges of vaccination status information of registrants is no longer needed” and signed by Dr. Bonnie Henry
A representative from Henry’s office has confirmed there’s no change to the mandate, describing the notice as a bureaucratic change around record-keeping of vaccination rates.
Public health-care system employers are still expect to collect vaccination status of workers, while the ministry says “the regulatory colleges will determine how they handle the collected vaccination status information through their own processes.”
“To be clear, vaccine mandates remain in highest-risk settings where the most vulnerable live and are cared for,” Henry wrote in an email statement. “This includes facilities in the health-care system.”
COVID-19 STILL CIRCULATING, BUT FEW OUTBREAKS DECLARED
The criteria for COVID-19 outbreaks has changed repeatedly through the pandemic. Right now, few health authorities declare them, and the criteria is unclear. Vancouver Coastal Health, for example, says its medical health officer will decide if they want to describe cases as outberaks and “the MHO will consider multiple factors including vaccination coverage and severity of illness.”
Of B.C.’s five regional health authorities, only Fraser Health has COVID-19 outbreaks underway, at Surrey Memorial and Mission Memorial hospitals, and Fraser Health notes “A COVID-19 outbreak will not be declared solely on the basis of cases diagnosed among residents or staff.”
Very few people are tested for lab-confirmed cases of the virus and wastewater surveillance – which helps health officials approximate the circulation of the disease within the general population – is only available in certain areas. It’s within this context that a two-year low for hospitalized patients should be considered.