BC drops COVID-19 immunization rule for public employees as spring refresher campaign kicks off

Provincial Health Officer, Dr.  Bonnie Henry, during a press conference in Vancouver, BC on Friday March 10, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC - photo credit)

Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, during a press conference in Vancouver, BC on Friday March 10, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC – photo credit)

British Columbia is lifting its policy requiring provincial civil servants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as it announces a spring booster program that will focus on the elderly and vulnerable.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry says next round of boosters will target people at “highest risk” of serious illness.

This includes people aged 80 and over, indigenous peoples aged 70 and over, and long-term care residents.

Those aged at least 18 and moderately to severely immunocompromised are also advised to get a booster shot in the campaign, which Henry says will start “for the most part” in April.

The province has since announced that starting April 3, BC public employees will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccinations.

The Treasury Department says in a statement the decision to repeal the directive was made “due to the high level of vaccination among public sector workers and the current state of the pandemic”.

Accordingly, more than 98 percent of the employees met the requirement.

The statement said the policy’s termination means “a small number” of employees who are on administrative leave for violations will be given a chance to get back to work.

Vaccination still required for healthcare workers

The government says people still need to be vaccinated when working in settings subject to orders from provincial health officials or other vaccination requirements, and that vaccination mandates remain in place in the “highest risk” settings, such as health facilities.

“The mandatory vaccination for public sector workers, introduced in November 2021, was always intended as a temporary measure to protect workers and the people they serve,” the statement said.

It adds that vaccination “remains the best protection against serious illness associated with COVID-19 for individuals, including children and adolescents, and has helped protect BC’s healthcare system and economy.”

Stephanie Smith, president of the BC General Employees’ Union, says the union has requested a meeting with the BC Public Service Agency to discuss the change and ensure all members are “treated equally” under the now-repealed policy.

“Since the pandemic began, BCGEU members have called for clarity on how employers’ decisions affect us and our working lives,” she said in a statement. “Our union has a number of questions about how this change will affect our members.”

Henry, at a briefing with Health Secretary Adrian Dix, said that people aged at least 60 and Indigenous people aged 50 or more who have not had COVID-19 should consider a booster.

Henry encouraged anyone who falls outside of the categories she describes but still wants a refresher to raise the matter with their healthcare provider.


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