British Columbia·Video

B.C. mandates COVID-19 vaccines for public service workers and long-term care visitors

COVID-19 vaccines will soon be mandatory for thousands of employees in B.C.'s public service and for visitors to many health-care settings, including long-term and assisted care, the province announced Tuesday. Health officials have also extended the deadline for long-term care workers to get vaccinated.

Long-term care, assisted-living workers must also have 1st dose by Oct. 12 or be off work without pay: PHO

Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix provide a COVID-19 update for Oct. 5. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

COVID-19 vaccines will soon be mandatory for thousands of employees in B.C.'s public service and for visitors to many health-care settings, including long-term and assisted care, the province announced Tuesday.

Health officials have also extended the deadline for long-term care workers to become fully vaccinated.

The B.C. Public Service Agency said Tuesday in a statement anyone working for the public service will need to have had both shots by Nov. 22.

"As more employees return to their regular workplaces later in the fall, this provides an additional and reassuring layer of protection for workers who are continuing the vital work of serving British Columbians," the statement said.

Roughly 30,000 people work in public service in B.C.

Those staff working "in core government or ministries" will be required to provide proof of full vaccination with their vaccine cards.

The province said it will be releasing guidance in early November for "the few people who are unable to be vaccinated."

New rules for medical settings

In a news conference later in the day, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced there would be an order coming into effect Oct. 12 that will require all long-term care and assisted living workers to have a first dose and a second dose within 35 days of the first.

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Workers who are unvaccinated by end of day on Oct. 12 will have to take a mandatory leave of absence without pay, she said.

"Now is the time to get vaccinated, to not have that happen, but as well, to support the efforts that are so important in long-term care to ensure that everyone is protected," Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

Starting Oct. 12, visitors to long-term care homes will also have to show their vaccine card. On Oct. 26, all health-care workers in B.C. and visitors to acute care facilities must also show proof of vaccine, with certain exceptions for palliative and end of life care. 

3rd dose for immune compromised expanded

Henry also announced the province would be expanding the group of immunocompromised people who are eligible for a third dose of the vaccine.

In September, a third dose was announced for 15,000 people in B.C. who were among the most clinically vulnerable, including people who have had whole organ transplants, bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants, those with blood cancers and certain immune disorders. 

A person wearing a mask in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, October 4, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

During Thursday's news conference, she announced that group would be expanded to include 100,000 people considered moderately to severely immunocompromised who would also receive an invitation for a third dose.

"[These people] are at higher risk of having severe illness or complications from COVID," Henry said.

 "So not only should you be immunized, you are now eligible as well to receive a third dose to make sure that you have a good strong immune response."

The expanded group includes people receiving treatment for tumours, systemic therapy like chemotherapy and radiation for cancer, people with arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune conditions.

As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, Henry and Dix are urging British Columbians to keep their dinner parties small and make sure everyone attending is fully-vaccinated, especially when high-risk family members will be around.

"We want to make sure these gatherings are happy occurrence and not a cause for virus transmission and illness in the coming weeks," Henry said. 

With files from Rhianna Schmunk

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