Good morning! Wendy Cox in Vancouver this morning.
Within hours of a Florida judge striking down a United States mask mandate on planes and mass transit, all seven of America’s largest airlines repealed their rules on Monday. Canada, though, won’t follow suit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
Despite pushback from WestJet and Air Canada, which argued that Canada should “harmonize” its policies with the new U.S. development, the mask and vaccine requirements for Canadian travellers remain. They are some of the few restrictions that do.
In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered last August that all workers in long-term care and assisted living facilities would have to be vaccinated in order to keep their jobs. B.C. was the first province to bring in such an order and it remains in place.
In February, Dr. Henry announced her order would be expanded to include all regulated health workers, including dentists, pharmacists, doctors and chiropractors. The deadline was supposed to be March 24.
“I think this is a really important measure that brings the same standard to all health workers across the province,” Dr. Henry said at the time.
But last month, when Dr. Henry’s office issued the new order that applied to other health professionals, the requirement that they be vaccinated or lose their jobs was gone. Instead, the order requires only that those 18 professional health colleges must give personal information about their registrants to the ministry by March 31.
But that deadline, too, has come and gone. A statement from the health ministry to reporter Xiao Xu last Thursday indicated some of the colleges have yet to comply.
“The PHO (public health officer) will be able to provide statistics on vaccinations by college soon, once all health regulatory colleges have recorded and collated the vaccination status of their registrants and had the opportunity to provide aggregate data reports to the PHO,” it read.
Dr. Henry said earlier this month that her office is working with the colleges to put in place “processes based on risk.”
“People will have informed consent about whether they want to receive a procedure, or a health-care service from a private practitioner who is vaccinated or not,” she said.
In fact, patients will have to infer their likelihood of risk based on the degree to which members of each health profession have embraced vaccination. The ministry made clear that the individual status of each practitioner will not be revealed, only the percentage of practitioners who are vaccinated.
The missed deadlines and the watered-down requirements are likely a result of the resistance from some of the health colleges, Xiao reported.
At the annual general meeting of the College of Chiropractors of B.C., or CCBC, in December, the practitioners who attended voted in favour of a motion that opposed mandatory vaccination for the province’s more than 1,300 chiropractors.
The motion calls on the self-regulated college to “take a stand to protect and maintain the right to medical freedom of choice for all health/medical interventions for B.C. registrant chiropractic doctors.” It says CCBC registrants and chiropractic patients maintain the right to choose medical privacy.
The passage of the motion prompted the B.C. Chiropractic Association, a voluntary group that represents 85 per cent of the province’s chiropractors, to issue a statement calling the episode a “misrepresentation of facts concerning the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The association said only 15 per cent of registrants were present at the meeting.
Other regulators, including the College Of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. and the College of Dental Technicians of B.C., said they are not in a position to speak to personal opinions held by registrants on this topic, but the latter made it clear on its website that even registrants who provide only telehealth, virtual or remote services need to comply with the order.
University of British Columbia medical ethicist Judy Illes said she’s fully supportive, from an ethical point of view, of the province’s efforts to gather as much data as possible about vaccinations in all sectors, as long as people’s privacy is protected.
People who are more prone to biomedical approaches to health will find specialties that have higher rates of vaccination, and those who are inclined toward more natural approaches to health and wellness are likely to go to specialists whose college may have lower rates of vaccination, she added.
“I don’t think we’ll see any surprises. But I think what’s important is that we know what the data are, what the vaccination rates are, and every bit of science that we can attribute to this public-health crisis, which still has its grips on us, is valuable,” Dr. Illes said in an interview.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.