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COVID restrictions eased in Interior Health as mandatory vaccinations announced for B.C. health-care workers

FILE PHOTO - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
September 13, 2021 - 4:36 PM

With the B.C. vaccine card now in place, the stricter restriction on gatherings in the Interior Health region are being relaxed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made that announcement at a news briefing today, Sept. 13, as well as saying that all people working in health-care facilities will have to be vaccinated by Oct. 26.

“It is our shared responsibility to get through this next phase of the pandemic,” Dr. Henry said. “We need to do everything we can do to get vaccinated.”

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared in the Central Okanagan on July 28 and new rules were put in place. Restaurants, for example, were not allowed to serve liquor after 10 p.m., no more than five guests could be in a house and indoor gatherings were limited to 50 people.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared in Central Okanagan, masking ordered for all indoor spaces

Most of those restrictions were expanded to the rest of Interior Health on Aug. 20.

READ MORE: COVID restrictions expanded throughout Interior Health region

While Dr. Henry said the Interior orders will be amended, she did not provide full details.

Some organized sporting events, with the vaccine card, will have the 50-person limit removed. They can go to 50 per cent of capacity. That includes Western Hockey League teams in Kamloops and Kelowna.

High intensity fitness centres can resume, if they use the vaccine card and the restriction against serving alcohol after 10 p.m. ends today.

More details are to be released by Interior Health today.

As for health-care workers, Dr. Henry has been saying for some time that mandatory vaccination was on the way. On Aug. 12 she made vaccination mandatory in long-term care facilities.

READ MORE: All staff in B.C. long term care homes must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12

Part of the reason for announcing the expansion of the mandatory vaccinations today is to keep long-term care workers from switching to other parts of the health-care system to avoid that requirement, she said.

The new rules will affect all workers, contractors and volunteers in all health care facilities, including home and community care. People, like doctors, who only work in the community and don’t have privileges in care facilities will be exempt.

“This is going to be a condition of employment,” Dr. Henry stressed. “The end result for people who choose not to be vaccinated in health care is leave without pay.”

She said 96 to 97% of physicians are vaccinated as are 80 to 90% of health-care workers so not all that many people will be affected.

She did not seem too worried about a mass resignation of health-care workers who do not want to b e vaccinated.

“I know there is a shortage of health-care workers in this country but I also know there is a lot of support,” Dr. Henry added.

READ MORE: Here’s how to get your B.C. COVID-19 vaccination card

Exemptions are being worked on for the rare cases of people who cannot be vaccinated but Dr. Henry also mentioned exemptions on religious grounds but did not provide details.

Dr. Henry also announced that about 12,000 B.C. residents will be notified, as early as today, that they should get a third dose of the COVID vaccines because they have medical conditions that do not always allow two doses to be effective.

From 40 to 50% of this group get no immune response after two doses but about 55 per cent will get a response after three doses.

She’s also monitoring data on whether about 120,000 other B.C. residents with compromised immune systems might also need a booster shot.

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