B.C. public service employees will be placed on unpaid leave if still unvaccinated by Nov. 22

People inside a cafe in Vancouver on May 4, 2020.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
People inside a cafe in Vancouver on May 4, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Any public service employee who has not received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 22 will be placed on unpaid leave for three months, B.C. health officials say.

Workers who still aren't vaccinated after that period "may be terminated," Health Minister Adrian Dix said during a news conference Monday.

"This is a necessary step to support vaccination and help protect all of our workplaces and communities from COVID-19," Dix said.

Roughly 30,000 people work in public service in B.C. The province announced last month that vaccines for those workers would be mandatory.

3,300 in health-care on leave

Separately, in the health-care sector, more than 3,300 workers are now on unpaid leave because they were not immunized by the Oct. 26 deadline for mandatory vaccination.

The number is down from 4,090 from last week, but still accounts for 2.5 per cent of the health-care workforce. It also accounts for five per cent of health-care workers in Interior Health.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said any loss of staff is another challenge for an exhausted health-care system.

But she wasn't readily inviting back staff who still have not been immunized.

"If people are in our health-care system and not recognizing the importance of vaccination, then this is probably not the right profession for them, to be frank," she said during the news conference Monday.

"The impact [of vaccines] we've seen in the last almost two years now of this pandemic ... if now is not the time that you start to believe in the important and the value of vaccination in protecting people, then I don't know when is."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Kelowna General Gospital is down two operating rooms this week because of staff who are on unpaid leave, Dix said. The facility has also postponed non-urgent eye care so workers can be diverted to urgent care.

The minister said "a very small number of surgeries" have been postponed in the Fraser Health region, but cancellations in the region are not expected to continue past next week.

Ninety-seven per cent of health-care workers are vaccinated, Dix noted.

Last week, the province announced everyone in B.C. will have access to a COVID-19 booster shot over the next several months. People who are immunocompromised, people living in long-term care or people in remote Indigenous communities will be among those prioritized, but officials said everyone will have access to a shot by next May.

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The province is also working on its plan for vaccinating children, pending Health Canada's approval of a vaccine for kids.

On Friday, B.C. announced 584 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths. The province said 436 people were in hospital, with 156 in intensive care.

Health officials are still encouraging anyone who has not yet received a first or second dose to register to be vaccinated, and said that part of the immunization program will continue as they work to administer booster shots.

British Columbians aged 12 and over who have not yet been immunized can register in three ways:

  • By calling 1-833-838-2323. Translators are available in 140 languages.