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B.C. COVID-19 vaccine providers told they can't wear N95 masks

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The president of Burnaby-based Vitacore is offering to donate thousands of N95-equivalent respirators to B.C. COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

Mikhail Moore took to Twitter Friday night, claiming he would donate 200,000 N95/N99 respirators if the province changed its policies regarding personal protective equipment at vaccination sites. 

Vitacore was the first Canadian manufacturer authorised by Health Canada to produce N95-equivalent respirators.

“This was a specific offering that was given out of a need that was brought up regarding a number of doctors and nurses that wanted to work or volunteer in these vaccination centres, but were worried about the level of protection,” Moore said in an interview with CTV News.

As it currently stands, health-care workers administering vaccinations are provided with a standard surgical mask.

Infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist Dr. Victor Leung says he volunteered to administer vaccines, but was told he wouldn’t be able to wear his own N95 respirator.

“In B.C., we have followed a point-of-care risk assessment,” said Leung. “On the (B.C. Centre for Disease Control) website, it states a health-care worker can, based on their own assessment, choose the appropriate PPE that may provide higher levels of protection and that includes an N95 respirator.”

The BCCDC also states that an N95 respirator should be worn when there’s a risk of airborne transmission.

"It is very clear now through the totality of evidence that the predominant mode of transmission is through inhalation of particles or aerosols that can have the virus," Leung said.

A grassroots group made up of health-care workers and community advocates known as “Protect our Province” says it has also heard from several physicians who have passed up volunteering due to the no-N95 policy.

"Health-care workers want to help, but they want to stay safe,” said Dr. Amy Tan, a family and palliative care physician.

“It's not a selfish thing. They want to stay safe so we can keep doing our work."

During a briefing Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province wasn’t ready to change the current policy.

“N95s are used in the health-care system when you're dealing with people with COVID, particularly in ICU or in an emergency department, where there's an environment that is very challenging,” Henry said.

Vaccination clinics are not high risk locations for COVID-19 infection, the provincial health officer said.

Moore says he’s hoping to speak with the province regarding his offer in the coming days. 

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