All healthcare professionals in British Columbia will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, beginning March 24.
During Wednesday's press conference, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that following her notice last October that all health workers will need to be vaccinated, her health order will come into effect next month.
A similar order has already been in place for employees of long-term care homes and staff at public healthcare facilities, but the new order will extend to a wide variety of professions, like dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors, optometrists, psychologists and pharmacists. A full list of impacted professions can be found here.
“I have spoken many times about the importance of all of us as healthcare professionals doing everything we can, and it is our obligation to make sure that we're taking all of the measures to protect those patients in our care, especially the more vulnerable people that we serve,” Dr. Henry said Wednesday.
“As well, it is important for us to protect our own health as part of being able to continue to contribute to the healthcare of others during this challenging time.”
Dr. Henry says they've been working for several months with all of the colleges that regulate the many healthcare professions in the province, in anticipation of the vaccination requirement.
She said while all of the colleges have been supportive of the requirement, it's taken longer to get the mandate in place, due to “technical operational issues.”
“The colleges have all been behind this and we've been working very closely with them,” she said. “It turned out to be much more complex than we originally thought ... some of it is 'legalese' around how the colleges are organized.”
She noted that B.C.'s high rate of vaccination has helped the province manage the highly transmissible Omicron wave over the past month.
“Our healthcare workers have had milder illness, so that we're able to get back to work,” Dr. Henry said. “While the rates of hospitalization and the rates of people dying have been much less because of vaccination and the severity of illness from Omicron, what we continue to see is that absolute numbers are still staggering.”
She added that while she plans to announce the easing of some COVID-19 measures next week, she expects we'll be dealing with the virus for at least another year, and new mutations are “inevitable.”
“We are not through this ... so many people are infected and the virus is rapidly changing and mutating, the inevitability is that we will see another variant, and that the pressure is for it to be more transmissible and potentially cause more severe illness,” Dr. Henry said.
She pointed to growing evidence the third booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine provides 50-60 per cent more protection from contracting the disease, while the first two doses appear to provide protection from suffering serious illness.