Rate of unvaccinated B.C. health-care workers falls to 2%, health minister says

·3 min read
A vaccination clinic is pictured at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A vaccination clinic is pictured at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

B.C.'s health minister says the province has seen a significant increase in the last week in the number of health-care workers vaccinated against COVID-19.

Across the province, two per cent of workers in the health-care system aren't vaccinated, Adrian Dix announced Tuesday. Since the last update a week ago, the province has added another 1,548 vaccinated workers to the system, leaving 3,071 unvaccinated and on unpaid leave.

Dix said he was encouraged by the numbers.

"It is our hope that people will continue to get vaccinated," he said at a live briefing.

COVID-19 vaccination has been required for health-care workers since Oct. 26.

Dix said that while the health-care system is strained and the province doesn't want to lose any workers because they're not vaccinated, COVID-19 outbreaks are a much greater threat to the system.

He also said that 288 non-urgent scheduled surgeries have had to be postponed over the last week as hospitals deal with the fourth wave of the pandemic.

During Tuesday's briefing, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that while the virus appears to be spreading to fewer people, the delta variant is highly transmissible and causes more serious illness.

Henry called on everyone to be vigilant with public health measures, including masks in indoor public settings.

"We can't afford to have gaps in protection," she said.

Henry also urged families to consider smaller indoor gatherings with fully vaccinated loved ones over the holidays.

"If you're wanting to spend time with your broader family and friends, then plan an outdoor activity instead," she said.

Anyone who is planning to travel this winter should also be "respectful," Henry said, which means avoiding areas experiencing outbreaks and being fully vaccinated before hitting the road.

3rd shots coming

So far, 8.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 3.9 million second doses.

Henry said a limited number of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses are expected to arrive in B.C. beginning early next week, and the priority will be providing shots to health-care workers who've indicated that it's the only vaccine they will consider.

Everyone in B.C. will also have access to a third shot in the coming months, according to a provincial government announcement at the end of October.

Between now and the end of the year, the immunization program will provide third doses to people who are immunocompromised, to residents in long-term care and to those in assisted living and rural and remote Indigenous communities.

Seniors aged 70 and over, and all Indigenous people over the age of 12, long-term home support clients and seniors in independent living and health-care workers who had a short interval between their first and second doses will also have the opportunity to receive a third dose by the end of the year.

Starting in January, third dose availability will expand to clinically vulnerable individuals and health-care workers. From there, the rest of the remaining population will become eligible.

Henry also noted that flu season has begun, with four confirmed cases in the community so far. She urged everyone to take advantage of B.C.'s free influenza immunization program.

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