COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for all long-term care home and assisted living staff, B.C. health officials announced today.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said the new requirement was part of a provincial health officer order in response to an uptick in cases and outbreaks linked to the Delta variant. Employees in these facilities will have until Oct. 12 to get fully vaccinated, Henry added.
“We continue to see transmission, particularly amongst unvaccinated people and pockets where immunization rates are lower. This transmission is of particular concern in seniors and elders living settings,” she said.
Over 72 per cent of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated in B.C., according to Henry.
There are currently eight active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living facilities, which were introduced by unvaccinated people, she added.
“Once it gets into these highly risky settings, it can spread even to those who are immunized. We’ve seen spread both to residents and staff, causing illness, but also disruption in life,” said Henry.
The new order will also allow public health authorities access to information about the vaccination status of all staff and residents in the homes.
“That helps us in assessing risk and assessing outbreak potential in those facilities,” said Henry.
Adrian Dix, minister of health, said the recent outbreaks are not as severe as those experienced over the past winter, but are very disruptive to people living in affected facilities.
Staff who are not yet fully vaccinated will be required to wear extra personal protective equipment and undergo regular testing, until the Oct. 12 deadline. Public health will work with people who are unable to get vaccinated, Henry said.