BC anti-vaxxers lose legal fight to get jobs back | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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BC anti-vaxxers lose legal fight to get jobs back

Image Credit: PEXELS/Katja Fuhlert

More than a dozen anti-vax health-care workers have lost a legal fight to get their jobs back.

The 15 BC health-care workers argued that COVID-19 was no longer "an immediate and significant risk" to public health and therefore they should get their jobs back.

According to a May 10 BC Supreme Court decision, the health-care workers range from doctors and nurses to managers and administrators all of whom lost their employment for refusing to be vaccinated.

The health-care workers argued the Public Health Office order had caused them ongoing hardship and harm.

The anti-vaxxers also argued the government's vaccination policy that led to their absenteeism also caused ongoing hardship and harm to the health-care system as a whole. The court documents state around 1,800 health-care workers in BC lost their jobs due to refusing the COVID jab. According to Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey figures from 2021, the fired workers represented 0.6% of all health-care workers in the province.

The reasons for not getting vaccinated varied among health-care workers, some stated religious reasons – in part the use of fetal cells in the vaccines’ development – while others said it should be a personal choice.

Contrary to the rhetoric often used by anti-vaxxers, the group did admit that at one point in time COVID had been a public health emergency which justified the use of Public Health Office's emergency powers, but not anymore.

Somewhat bizarrely the group said the threat had since diminished in some part because of vaccinations.

Nurse practitioner Peternella Hoogerbrug refused to be vaccinated on religious grounds being a member of the Reformed Congregation in North America.

The church opposes vaccination on the basis that it "interferes with the providence of God" the decision reads.

"Its teachings include that placing one’s trust in the vaccine, rather than God, can lead to idolatry," the court document says.

"Those who refused for secular reasons expressed doubts about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines," BC Supreme Court Justice Simon Coval said in the decision. "Many described the vaccines as 'rushed to market' and some perceived the vaccines to be a 'genetic experiment.'"

The anti-vaxxers argued on several grounds including that by October 2023, when the Public Health Order was last updated, COVID wasn't an immediate and significant risk and therefore Dr. Bonnie Henry's emergency powers no longer applied.

They also argued there was no medical evidence that unvaccinated health-care workers posed a greater risk to vulnerable patients than vaccinated workers.

Others said the vaccine mandate infringed on their freedom of conscience and religion.

However, Justice Coval wasn't convinced.

"While the consequences of refusing the vaccine have been significant for the petitioners, in my view the Orders are not in violation of our fundamental norms or out of sync with their objectives. This is because the objectives are the critical public health-care goals of protecting the public against a highly contagious disease, which... over the past few years has caused much death, serious illness, and harm to the functioning of the healthcare system."

In dismissing the anti-vaxxers' arguments the Justice goes on to say that it's "difficult to imagine" a more pressing public health concern than reducing serious illness and loss of life and safeguarding the functioning of the health-care system.

The anti-vaxxers do win a minor victory as Justice Coval asks the Public Health Officer to reconsider the ban that blocks unvaccinated health-care workers who work from home or have no contact with patients or frontline workers who care for patients.

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