More calls for mandatory immunizations for health-care workers after Henry says she has 'little patience' for the unvaccinated

A day after Dr. Bonnie Henry said she had "little patience" with health-care workers who choose not to be vaccinated for COVID-19, a number of high-profile officials are once again advocating for British Columbia to make shots mandatory for those who work closely with the most vulnerable.

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie told CTV News Vancouver it wouldn’t be unreasonable to compel health-care workers in certain settings to be vaccinated, or alternatively, to provide a medical certificate.

“There’s a difference between saying everybody must be vaccinated, and saying there are certain occupations that require vaccination,” Mackenzie said.

Terry Lake, the CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, echoed Mackenzie, calling immunization “the biggest single thing we can do to protect those in care.”

“We still see some homes where maybe only 70 to 75 per cent of staff are vaccinated, and that clearly leaves a gap that endangers the residents and the other staff members,” Lake said.

That’s left Jeanette Harper worried.

Harper’s mother, 90-year-old Marguerite Bell, is living with Alzheimer’s in a care home in Nanaimo.

And Harper’s not sure all her mother’s care providers are fully vaccinated.

“What are the stats in my mother’s care home?” Harper wondered. “What is the percentage of staff that work there that have been vaccinated?”

It’s something B.C.’s top doctor recently ordered long term care and assisted living facilities to report to government, along with new requirements that workers who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask and be tested three times a week using rapid tests.

It’s not clear when those testing and reporting requirements go into effect.

“Do you think it rises to the level now where vaccines need to be mandatory for health care workers?” CTV News asked Harper.

She replied: “Yes. You’ve chosen to work in this profession. You’ve chosen to work with the most vulnerable.”

In June, Henry said she was “absolutely” considering mandatory vaccines for care home staff.

On Tuesday, she hinted at possible “consequences” beyond what’s already in place.

And while the B.C. Nurses’ Union – which has 6,506 members who work in long-term care and assisted living – said it would tell its members to comply if Henry made the order, it’s not advocating for mandatory immunizations.

“The (union) believes that education and accurate information is the best approach,” CEO Cody Hedman wrote in a statement, adding that it “strongly supports vaccinations.”

When it comes to potential negative consequences for unvaccinated care workers, Hedman wrote:

“BCNU is looking to employers to provide the necessary workplace adjustments and accommodations that respect the dignity and unique circumstances of the individual.”

Mackenzie said that bringing in a mandate could help increase immunization rates by compelling people to have conversations with their doctors about any vaccine-related concerns.

And Lake pointed out that a handful of care facilities now require vaccinations for new, but not existing, workers.

Harper said she hopes the momentum is slowly shifting toward a mandate. One that will hopefully come in time to prevent any future outbreaks.

“If, by chance, someone in (my mom’s care home) contracts COVID, we’re going to be locked out again,” Harper said. “And we don’t want that.”