British Columbia

No vaccine mandate for regulated health professionals, B.C. officials confirm

B.C. has officially dropped plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate covering all regulated health professionals, but officials are promising that patients will have access to information about their providers’ vaccine status.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says patients will have access to vaccine status of practitioners for informed consent

A change in plans in B.C. means all regulated health professionals will need to disclose their vaccine status, but COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandated. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. has officially dropped plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate covering all regulated health professionals, but officials are promising that patients will have access to information about their providers' vaccine status.

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged that the province has backed away from a plan first announced in October to make vaccination a condition of licensing for everyone from dentists to registered massage therapists.

"This has been a change in how we're approaching this order, given the situation that we're in right now, but also given our ongoing consultation with the various colleges that are affected," she told reporters.

Earlier this week, a new public health order was announced that requires all health professional colleges to collect information on the vaccination status of every registrant by March 31, and be prepared to provide that to the province upon request.

"We are taking, then, a measured approach based on the risk and impact with each individual college," Henry said.

"We will have in place a measure for informed consent so that people can understand that there'll be disclosure to clients or patients of vaccination status for some of the regulated health professions, and for others there may be additional measures that are needed."

She did not provide further details about how vaccination status will be disclosed to patients, or what other measures might be considered.

Those statements came one month after Henry promised to issue an order requiring all regulated health professionals to have at least one dose of vaccine by March 24.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Adrian Dix denied there was any change in plans, saying that gathering information about vaccination status had always been "a necessary step" toward a mandate.

The promise of a vaccine mandate has been a major source of contention within certain health professions. 

Most B.C. colleges have received lengthy but legally dubious "notices of liability" from some of their registrants or members of the public alleging board members will be held "personally liable" if vaccination against COVID-19 becomes a requirement for licensing. 

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

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