Only roughly 68% of healthcare workers in Interior Health are vaccinated for COVID | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Only roughly 68% of healthcare workers in Interior Health are vaccinated for COVID

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Interior Health
August 16, 2021 - 7:00 AM

The provincial government announced this week all workers in long term care facilities will be required to get both doses of COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment and said similar requirements may soon be coming for all healthcare workers.

That might be a challenge in Interior Health where only roughly 68 per cent of healthcare workers have been vaccinated. That repeats a similar trend in the general population where interior communities are lagging behind in vaccinations rates — close to 90 per cent of healthcare workers in the Fraser Health region are already fully vaccinated.

But these numbers may require an asterisk. It has been difficult to get accurate information from public health officials on region-wide numbers, let alone somewhere as specific as the Central Okanagan, where a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on July 28 and stricter lockdown restrictions were imposed on Aug. 6.

READ MORE: Bars and nightclubs hardest hit by new COVID restrictions in the Central Okanagan

If the Ministry of Health knows the true number, it isn't sharing. It would only release the actual number of healthcare workers who have been vaccinated in each of the province’s five health regions — not as a percentage.

On its web page, an Interior Health fact sheet says it has 21,000+ staff and 1,900+ physicians.

The Ministry of Health said 15,609 health care workers in Interior Health have been vaccinated with at least one dose. That works out to 68.2 per cent of the 22,900 staff and physicians.

Interior Health communications people confirmed that was the best estimate of the number of employees.

A Fraser Health communications person said there were about 35,686 people working for that health region. The Ministry of Health data shows 31,397 of those staff were vaccinated with one dose as of Aug. 9 

That means 88 per cent have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Vaccination rates among healthcare workers is becoming an important issue as COVID cases keep ramping up in the fourth wave, spurred by the more easily transmissible Delta variant. Interior Health has already begun re-scheduling surgeries as hospitals are filling with COVID patients again and staff are among them.

“There have been a number of health care workers who have been affected by COVID and that has put additional challenges, particularly on Kelowna General Hospital,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news briefing on wildfires earlier this week. “That has been part of the reason why some of the surgeries have been cancelled in that facility.”

The Ministry of Health communications department says about six per cent of the COVID cases in the Central Okanagan recorded since July 1 have been health care workers. has asked for clarification of the numbers provided by the Ministry of Health but did not get any clarification by publication time.

Areas of the Central Okanagan have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the province. Rutland is at 72 per cent. Lake Country is at 73 per cent. Okanagan Mission, which has the highest vaccination rate of any neighbourhood in the Central Okanagan at 82 per cent is the only one reaching the provincial average of 82.1 per cent.

That, however, is still far better than the area with the lowest vaccination rate in the province. Peace River South is at 45 per cent. Peace River North and Fort Nelson are not much better at 49 per cent each.

Yet, the Ministry of Health data would indicate that 71.4 per cent of the Northern Health region’s 7,000 health care workers are vaccinated.

The Vancouver Island health region seems to have 68.6 per cent of its 23,000 health care workers vaccinated.

The Ministry of Health also listed the number of workers in long term care and assisted living facilities who had been vaccinated but not the percentage of workers.

Dr. Henry, when asked by why such information was not available, said that workers in those facilities are not required to provide information about their vaccination status. That will change under new orders she issued today, Aug. 12, requiring all employees in such facilities to get vaccinated.

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

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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