British Columbia

COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health professionals pushed back again

B.C.’s long-promised COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all regulated health professionals will not come into effect later this month, despite earlier statements from the provincial health officer.

Health order released Monday night does not make vaccination mandatory, requires colleges to collect info

Regulated health professionals who work in private practice, including dentists, are not currently required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (Shutterstock / chanchai plongern)

B.C.'s long-promised COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all regulated health professionals will not come into effect later this month as planned, despite earlier statements from the provincial health officer.

Instead of making the shot mandatory for health professionals who work in private practice — including everyone from dentists and doctors to chiropractors and massage therapists — a new public health order will require them to report their vaccination status to their professional colleges.

The order, posted online Monday, states that B.C.'s 19 professional regulatory colleges were informed on March 4 that they would have to collect their members' vaccination information.

Any professional whose vaccination status is "not found," according to a statement from the province, must provide their vaccination records by a deadline of March 31. Colleges will be required to disclose this information to the provincial health office if requested.

It is unclear what the consequences would be for professionals who do not submit their vaccination records to their colleges. The vaccine mandate for those working in health-care facilities stated that any unvaccinated workers would be placed on unpaid leave after a deadline had passed.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry first signalled a mandate for all regulated health professionals was on its way in October.

However, she did not give an expected date for implementation until Feb. 9, when she said a public health order was imminent.

At that time, she said the province would require all regulated health professionals to receive one dose of vaccine by March 24. The health order posted on Monday makes no mention of this deadline.

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

At the annual general meeting of the College of Chiropractors in December, the chiropractors who attended voted in favour of a non-binding resolution calling on the college to "take a stand" against any mandates. Some who spoke at the meeting made anti-vaccine statements that were later denounced by their professional association and the health minister.

A number of B.C. colleges have also received lengthy "notices of liability" from some of their registrants alleging board members will be held "personally liable" if vaccination against COVID-19 becomes a requirement for licensing. Legal experts say these documents have no meaning in Canadian law.

COVID-19 vaccines are already mandatory for everyone working in health-care facilities, including long-term care homes, hospitals and community health-care centres.

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