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Thousands of B.C. health-care workers off the job as vaccination deadline passes

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VICTORIA -

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said more than 4,000 workers in the health-care system failed to get even one dose of COVID-19 vaccine before a deadline imposed by public health officials, and will be placed on unpaid leave.

The announcement came as part of a health briefing. Dix said the latest numbers available to the ministry showed of 126,343 workers, 4,090 weren't vaccinated.

Although he says the final numbers are being tallied and some of those include casual workers, thousands of workers are off the job at a time when the health-care system is under immense strain.

Dix called the vaccine mandate "a necessary step and an important one," adding, "we're also solemn today, because we know the implications for people."

The overall vaccine rate for health-care workers is 97 per cent, however, there are differences by region.

Dix says more than a thousand of those unvaccinated health-care workers are from the Interior -- that number is more than Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health combined.

The breakdown by health authority is as follows:

  • Interior: 1,369
  • Northern: 376
  • Fraser: 644
  • Providence: 122
  • Vancouver Coastal: 522
  • Provincial Health Services Authority: 496
  • Vancouver Island: 678

The health ministry says the true number of unvaccinated workers is more than 4,090, because some employees may work in more than one health authority.

Still, the number of unvaccinated health-care workers has dropped from more than 5,500 last week.

According to a public health order, all workers have to have at least one dose by Oct. 26 to keep working.

And while the health ministry says some of the employees are casuals, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there will be shortages, so they'll try to shift workers around to fill the gaps.

"It is so disruptive and detrimental to care when we have outbreaks in hospitals as we have a couple in the Interior right now. And that is the reason why we have this vaccine mandate in place," said Dr. Henry.

While thousands of health-care workers are being placed on unpaid leave, a deadline for long-term care and assisted living employees who didn't get immunized has come and gone.

They had until Oct. 12 to get at least one dose and as of Monday those who don't, an estimated 1,800 employees, are in the process of being terminated.

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