B.C. school boards now required to record staff COVID-19 vaccination status, ask for proof
After months of complaints from parents, teachers and school boards in British Columbia, it appears a provincial public health order has been issued to somewhat address staff vaccines.
But the province still isn't mandating vaccines for school staff, or imposing guidelines across B.C.'s education system.
An updated public health order shows the provincial government will require employers to keep records of staff vaccination status, and require proof of vaccination.
A document posted online Monday addresses "boards of education, independent school authorities and francophone education authorities," as well as those employed by those bodies.
It outlines that employees addressed in the document must provide their employer with proof of vaccination when requested, and by the date requested. Additionally, if their vaccination status changes, they must provide information and their vaccine card to their employer "without delay," and their employer must update the school's records.
Furthermore, employers must then report the vaccination status of its staff members, but in a way that won't identify the individuals.
The order goes on to say, "When putting in place measures to prevent, mitigate or respond to the spread of infection in a school," employers are to treat anyone who hasn't provided proof of vaccination as being unvaccinated.
It does not elaborate on what that would mean for those teachers or staff members.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education told CTV News in an email that the new order is meant to support medical health officers, "as they deem necessary, to better protect school communities… in order to more efficiently manage cases and clusters in schools."
The ministry said some boards have already started these surveys of staff.
Teri Mooring with the BC Teachers’ Federation, which represents 45,000 teachers across the province, told CTV News she had not been consulted or notified about the order.
“It’s really unfortunate that this order was basically communicated through social media as opposed to giving all the educational partners a heads up and a bit of an explanation,” said Mooring.
Mooring added that the BCTF has been asking for a province-wide vaccine mandate for some time. Up until now, the province has left vaccination requirements up to school boards. The Delta School District has so far been the only board to implement such mandates. Mooring says part of that process is gathering information about vaccine status, which is exactly what this order is about.
“What’s not clear, is what happens when vaccine status has been determined? Would the medical health officer then issue a vaccine mandate in certain parts of the province," Mooring said.
“It really poses a lot of questions, in an already highly charged atmosphere. We already have teachers and school staff really concerned about the spread of Omicron."
According to the ministry, the order provides a way for the information to be collected if needed for health and safety reasons. It does not mean staff will be fired if they're unvaccinated, unless their school board imposes a vaccination requirement.
The medical health officer would not be the one issuing such a mandate.
Surrey school teacher Lizanne Foster says the order simply ignores the additional safety measures teachers have been asking for this entire pandemic.
“The biggest concern right now from teachers is how many kids are not wearing masks and how many kids have mask exemptions. The government talks about three-ply masks being provided in schools and we haven’t seen that,”
“In Surrey, 97 per cent of teachers are vaccinated. So this focus on vaccination of teachers in the classroom is really baffling to me,” said Foster.
As for the collection of any further information, those decisions would be made by medical health officers in specific regions of the province, the order says.
It is unclear what additional information could be collected or reported. Medical health officers will also be able to impose limitations or conditions in their designated area, the order signed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reads.
The order has no expiry date, and anyone who fails to comply may face "enforcement action" under the Public Health Act.
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