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B.C. has no plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccine, top doctor says

Last Updated Dec 3, 2020 at 11:54 am PST

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
Summary

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry doesn't expect COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory in B.C.

B.C.'s top doctor says she'll be encouraging people in certain industries, such as health care, to get vaccinated

Health minister says engaging, educating people is more effective than forcing them into doing something

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As talk of a COVID-19 vaccine intensifies around the world, B.C.’s top doctor is making it clear she does “not expect” immunization will be mandatory in the province.

“We have no mandatory immunizations in this country and in this province, and we do not expect that COVID immunization will be mandatory either. Having said that, there are some key positions where we know the risk of transmission … can be very high,” Dr. Bonnie Henry on Wednesday.

She noted that she would be strongly recommending workers in certain industries, such as those working at long-term care homes, which have been hit hard during the pandemic, roll up their sleeves.

“So we will be strongly encouraging everybody in those settings to be immunized and if people are thinking about going into those settings and don’t believe in immunization, then they should look for other things to do,” she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix added that what has proven effective so far is engaging with people, rather than forcing them to get immunized.

“I think it’s nice to talk about a situation of broad immunization, and we’re looking forward to that. Initially, we are going to get the vaccine that we get and make the decisions based on public health advice required to deliver that vaccine,” he explained.

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Dix added the province would provide as much information as possible to people in order to engage, educate, and involve them “in those important decision.”

He says doing so isn’t just the moral thing to do, but the most effective.

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.K. became the first western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. Health Canada is in the final stages of reviewing vaccine candidates from Pfizer and competitor Moderna, with a decision expected this month.

Henry affirmed she has full confidence that a COVID-19 vaccine that is deemed ready and approved for use in Canada will be safe and effective.

“I know that we are waiting for these, particularly in those areas where people are most vulnerable and we can protect people very rapidly using these new vaccines that will be available very soon,” she said.

Health Canada expects to receive the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine early next year.

-With files from Marcella Bernardo