Public service employees in British Columbia must get vaccinated against COVID-19

Journal of Commerce | The Canadian Press | October 6, 2021

VICTORIA — Social workers, sheriffs and administrative assistants are among an estimated 30,000 government employees in British Columbia that will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their job.

The BC Public Service Agency said Tuesday that a deadline of Nov. 22 has been set for workers in core government services or ministries to show proof of being fully vaccinated using the BC Vaccine card.

The federal government has announced a vaccine mandate covering federal public servants, but there’s no set date for it to take effect.

Paul Finch, treasurer of the British Columbia General Employees Union, said he has been supportive of vaccines but wants to see the full policy to get an understanding of how exemptions and accommodations will be handled.

“We’ve been strongly advocating for robust health measures. We campaigned and asked for a mask mandate and got that,” he said, adding members want all workers to wear masks, not just those who are working with the public.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the public service has been working on the matter with unions and that an announcement would be made in the “coming weeks.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there will be consequences for workers in B.C.’s long-term care and assisted-living facilities if they decide not to get vaccinated, with the first deadline set for next week.

She called on B.C. residents to gather in small groups over Thanksgiving and to be particularly mindful of older family members and those who are immunocompromised.

The choice of some mayors in the Northern Health region to promote vaccination as a personal choice could have further negative outcomes in the area, where intensive care units have been overwhelmed, Henry said.

“Choice is one thing, but choice has consequences. And when those choices you make are having effects on the rest of the community, then that has implications and you are restricted from doing certain things. And that’s the point of the BC Vaccine card.”

Dix said as few as 65 per cent of Dawson Creek residents have been vaccinated and that is having an impact on health-care workers dealing with a high number of cases in that region as well as on Vancouver Island, where seriously ill patients needing intensive care are being transferred.

He encouraged all employers to require vaccination and said an outbreak at the Site C dam construction project in northern B.C. currently has 15 cases of COVID-19 but 83 per cent of workers are fully vaccinated.

“Those who are eligible to be vaccinated and have not decided to make this essential life and health-seeking decision, I implore you to look around to see the loss and the regrets that others who thought they could face COVID-19 unvaccinated have expressed for trying to face this foe unsupported and so needlessly vulnerable and make a better decision.”