Not vaccinated against COVID-19? B.C.'s health officials say there will be 'consequences'
B.C.'s top health officials announced Tuesday the province is shifting its COVID-19 vaccine rollout and implied there will be "consequences" for those who choose to not get their shots.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Penny Ballem all spoke about the vaccination plan Tuesday, saying a more focused rollout and walk-in appointments will hopefully help immunize more British Columbians.
The trio pointed to data that showed less than five per cent of recent COVID-19 cases in B.C. are among people who are fully vaccinated.
But once everyone has had a fair chance to get their COVID-19 vaccine doses, health officials warned there may be impacts to those who opt against them.
"It is a choice to be immunized, but there are consequences for people who are not immunized and that's going to be more important for us as we head into the fall, as we know that this virus will increase and we're likely to see other respiratory viruses," Henry said Tuesday.
"We will be looking at the measures that we need to put in place to protect people, particularly those who are most vulnerable."
The top doctor used current rules at long-term care homes as an example. Restrictions loosened at care homes on July 19, but those who haven't been fully vaccinated must still wear a mask when visiting residents.
Health-care workers in those settings must also remain masked and get tested frequently if they aren't vaccinated
"First we need to give everybody the opportunity to be immunized. That is very important in health care and I have very little patience for people that aren't immunized in health care," Henry said.
"If people choose not to be immunized and you work in health care then you will not be able to work in certain settings without taking additional measures. There will be consequences for that decision."
Terry Lake with the BC Care Providers Association said unvaccinated staff would be required to undergo regular testing and wear masks along with eye protection. He said the association would’ve preferred getting the shot be mandatory.
Outside health-care settings, Henry hinted she supports businesses establishing their own rules, saying it could help people feel more comfortable.
"If I was running a nightclub, I'd want to make sure my staff are protected. And yes, we can absolutely say, 'to come in here you have to be immunized," she said.
"It does affect your business. If you have an outbreak and it's transmitting between staff, the business will need to shut down for a period of time."
Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees took issue with Henry singling out nightclubs. He said the industry has made its own changes to make for safer environments, including making sure people don’t go to the bar to get service. He added many establishments check ID and checking vaccination status is something the industry is discussing.
“If this is what Dr. Henry wants us to do and B.C.'s privacy commissioner signs off on it then of course we've got her back like we have the entire pandemic,” he told CTV News.
Still he said enforcing the rule could prove problematic, pointing out the current vaccination cards could easily be replicated or tampered with. So far, the province and the federal government have said they won’t require vaccine passports to access public services.
Dix explained these practices aren't uncommon. The health minister pointed to measles cases in 2019 that prompted health authorities to try to immunize more B.C. students against that illness.
"What happened is a significant number of people stepped up and got immunized at that time but, to be clear, should there be an outbreak in a school of measles and you're not immunized, your child will be excluded from school for that period," Dix said.
"So there are consequences when you choose not to be immunized."
Health officials said they hope hesitant British Columbians take the opportunity to speak with a health-care provider about their questions and concerns.
"There are consequences to not being immunized even though it's not mandatory in our province," Dix said.
As of Monday, 80.6 per cent of eligible B.C. residents aged 12 and older have received their first vaccine against COVID-19. In that same age group, 64.4 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
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