B.C.'s physicians and surgeons are highest COVID-vaccinated group, naturopaths lowest

·4 min read

VICTORIA — Vaccination information on British Columbia's health-care professionals shows most are fully immunized, though patients won't know if their own doctor has had all their COVID-19 shots.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday nearly 94 per cent of practising and regulated professionals have received at least two doses of a vaccine or have a medical exemption from her office as of April 25.

Provincial data shows 98 per cent of physicians and surgeons are vaccinated, the highest rate among health-care professionals, while naturopaths are the lowest at 69 per cent. Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists have a vaccination rate of 79 per cent.

The vaccination figures for the BC College of Nurses and Midwives are still being collected and are expected to be released over the next few weeks.

The government is working with each college to ensure that health-care professionalscan declare their immunization status without disclosing personal information, Henry said.

“The overriding principle is patient safety, and making it safe for people to ask those questions.”

It may be as simple as when a person books an appointment, they would be asked if they have a preference of seeing a practitioner who is vaccinated, she said.

"So, we are trying to work out those details in a way that protects privacy but also gives agency to people to make those decisions because it may be different, depending on the risk, and depending on what's happening in the community."

She said people might feel hesitant about asking their health-care provider if they are vaccinated. She likened it to a person asking their physician if they washed their hands.

"One of the programs that we've talked about a lot is that it's OK to ask your health-care provider if they clean their hands," she told a news conference.

The overriding interest is to ensure that people can make an informed decision and feel safe when receiving care from their chosen providers, Henry said.

The province is in aCOVID-19 "period of ease" for the next little while, but Henry said she's concerned about influenza season returning in the fall and winter, especially as more people start travelling and gathering.

"We need to be prepared that we're going to see a surge in the fall," she said,referring to the combination of the flu and COVID-19.

Mask mandates and limits on gatherings might not return to the province, she said, but people should remember the things that helped them get through the past two years and follow those guidelines.

"We will rely on each other to take those measures when we start to see an increase in transmission again," she said.

Health officials are considering whether everyone or only some would need another COVID-19 booster, she said.

"Those are the things that we are planning for the future. We're watching closely.”

Weekly figures released Thursday show another 50 deaths due to COVID-19. There were 550 people in hospital and 39 of those were in intensive care.

More than 11.6 million doses of vaccine have been administered, although the B.C. Centre for Disease Control figures show 12.2 million doses have been distributed.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are more than a million people invited who haven't had a third dose yet.

The Omicron waves' ripple effects are still being felt on the health-care system although the virus is not straining it as heavily as it did when it began late last year, Dix said.

"The pandemic is still here," he said. "Those effects are different, but they continue to challenge our health-care system and health-care professionals and health-care workers everywhere."

Henry said she has not had COVID-19 so far, and attributed it to wearing masks in the right places and washing her hands.

"I've been around people who have (had COVID-19) and, you know, I think we see the results of vaccination and how protective it is," she said.

"I will say, in the last few weeks, I have done more things. It was slightly terrifying at first, but I was able to go to the opera here in Victoria, a couple of weeks ago."

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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