British Columbia is rescinding its policy requiring provincial public servants to be vaccinated against coronavirus, effective April 3.

Employees will still be required to be vaccinated if they work in settings under provincial health officer orders or other vaccination requirements, as well as in high-risk settings like health-care facilities. The changes also mean employees on administrative leave due to non-compliance will have the chance to come back to work.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the decision was based on the “very high level of vaccination in the B.C. public service and the current state of the pandemic. It reflects what a lot of employers are doing and overall the advice of public health.”

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Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. General Employees’ Union, says the union had requested a meeting with the B.C. Public Service Agency to discuss the rule change and ensure all members received “equitable treatment” under the now-rescinded policy.

Dr. Joshua Greggain, president of Doctors of B.C., says high vaccination rates and low current coronavirus infection rates make it an “an appropriate time to start relaxing vaccine restrictions.”

While it’s understandable that vaccine mandates remain in place for health-care workers, he adds, staffing shortages across the health-care sector should make the government consider lifting requirements for health-care workers.

“With a serious shortage of health-care staff in our hospitals and emergency rooms and with physicians struggling to provide the care patients need, perhaps it is also time to consider allowing unvaccinated health-care workers to return to the workforce to help ease the staffing crisis, as has been announced for the public sector workforce.”

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