Backlash over 'exclusive' vaccine clinic prompts petition supporting B.C. country club CEO
VANCOUVER -- The fallout over a West Vancouver, B.C., country club's plans to hold an "exclusive" vaccine clinic has prompted two opposing petitions – one launched in support of the club's CEO, and another calling for his removal.
The plan to offer vaccine to members of the high-end Hollyburn Country Club, which charges a $60,000 entrance fee, has been met with widespread outrage online. Over the weekend, West Vancouver Mayor Mary-Ann Booth announced she was cancelling her club membership over the decision.
"Although I did not receive the invitation to Hollyburn Country Club's exclusive pop-up vaccination clinic myself, I was appalled when I heard about it through the media," Booth said on Twitter.
Amid mounting backlash, a petition was launched on Sunday calling on the club to replace CEO Ed McLaughlin and any members of the board of directors who were familiar with the now-scuttled immunization plans.
"There is simply no justification for Hollyburn members or staff to jump the queue ahead of any other Canadian," the petition reads. "We believe this project reflects an indefensible lack of judgment by the leadership of the club that demands appropriate repercussions."
Hours later, a counter-petition was created to support McLaughlin and the board, arguing the club's leadership was acting "with the best intentions." The petition to remove the CEO has been signed 188 times as of early Monday afternoon, while the petition of support has been signed 481 times.
The counter-petition also includes the full text of an email sent to Hollyburn members on Saturday explaining the club's decision-making process.
According to the email, Hollyburn reached out to a local pharmacy, which normally provides members with their annual flu shots, and tried to arrange for a similar COVID-19 vaccination clinic for staff.
"Our aim was to help increase protection for the frontline workers at our club," it reads. "When there were more vaccines available than staff who were eligible and who chose to participate, the decision was made to offer the remaining vaccines to eligible members who had not yet received their first vaccine."
But vaccines have been in high demand and short supply in the province since the first doses arrived last year. Some pharmacies said their phones were ringing off the hook after the government expanded AstraZeneca eligibility to those aged 40 and up last week.
The email from Hollyburn acknowledges that scarcity and offers an apology: "Given the current environment in which everyone is anxious to receive a vaccine, we understand the concern that has been expressed about offering a clinic that is not available to the general public. We apologize."
CTV News has reached out to the country club for comment.
In a statement, B.C.'s Ministry of Health said it stepped in and cancelled Hollyburn's vaccination clinic, calling the plans "unacceptable." The province also said it won't be providing any further COVID-19 vaccine doses to the pharmacy involved.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Tessa Vikander