B.C. naturopaths, chiropractors and acupuncturists are far less likely than dietitians, physicians and surgeons to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The figures released by B.C.’s provincial health officer on Tuesday might leave people wondering what right they have to know their practitioner’s vaccination status. Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is still working on how to balance people’s privacy with patient safety.
“We are working with each (professional) college on how to build it in to professional standards,” Henry said at a news conference.
“The overriding interest is patient safety and making it safe for people to ask those questions” about their practitioner’s vaccination status, she said.
“It may be things like when you call to book, you are asked whether you would prefer to see a vaccinated or unvaccinated professional. We are trying to work out those details in a way that protects privacy, but also gives agency to people to make those decisions.”
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix on Tuesday released figures on health care worker vaccinations for 17 of the 18 regulated health colleges in B.C.
Health professionals with the lowest rates of vaccinations are naturopaths at 69 per cent, chiropractors at 78 per cent and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncturists at 79 per cent.
Henry acknowledged that some health professionals have balked at providing their vaccine status or were hesitant to receive an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna.
“We know that some regulated health professionals have views about vaccination and we have only recently had alternatives to the mRNA vaccines available for some people and that’s an important choice for some practitioners,” she said.
Ninety-eight per cent of B.C. dietitians, physicians and surgeons are double vaccinated for COVID-19, the highest rate among regulated health professionals.
Dix said he suspects the people “most unhappy with those results are the vast majority of people in those three colleges who are vaccinated.”
Ninety-four per cent of regulated health care professionals in B.C. have had two doses of the vaccine, which Henry said shows health care workers see the value of being vaccinated. The figures reflect vaccination status as of April 25.
The figures do not include the College of Nurses and Midwives.
Its data takes longer to compile because there are 67,000 nurses and midwives in B.C., Dix said, but preliminary numbers suggest 95 per cent are fully vaccinated. Nurses and midwives represent almost half of all regulated health professionals in the province.
Dix said when the final figure is available in the coming weeks, it will likely push the total health professional vaccination rate in B.C. to 94 per cent or even higher.
Dr. William Bowie, a former head of the UBC Centre for Disease Control, told Postmedia News in April that all health-care practitioners have a duty to protect their patients by being vaccinated against COVID-19.
And patients have the right to know whether or not their caregivers are vaccinated so they can make an informed decision when receiving care, said Bowie, an infectious diseases specialist at Vancouver General Hospital and a professor of medicine at UBC.
In October, the provincial health officer ordered health-care workers in acute and long-term care to be vaccinated.
In March, a new order required health care professionals from a range of fields to report their vaccination status to their colleges. Those colleges were required to give the information to the Health Ministry.
Hundreds of unvaccinated hospital workers fighting to get their jobs back have criticized the vaccine orders, saying it’s unfair that unvaccinated doctors, dentists, chiropractors and other health professionals are able to keep their jobs.
There are an estimated 2,500 workers, including aides, cleaners, orderlies and others, who lost jobs because they refused to be immunized against COVID-19, according to their union, The Hospital Employees’ Union.
B.C. is also holding steadfast to its plan to offer fourth doses of the vaccine only to seniors in care homes and assisted-living facilities, people 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who are 55 and older and 100,000 people who are immune-compromised.
“We do not yet know if all of us will need another dose of vaccine come fall or if protection from the three doses will carry most of us through and only some people will need another dose,” Henry said. “We are transitioning through this emergency phase of the pandemic, but we still need to be vigilant.”
Here’s a full list of the vaccination rates of 17 of the 18 health care colleges in B.C.
• Physicians and surgeons: 98%
• dietitians: 98%
• Occupational therapists: 96.9%
• Pharmacy technicians: 96.8%
• Pharmacists: 96.7%
• Psychologists: 96.1%
• Optometrists: 96%
• Dentists: 95.9%
• Physical therapists: 95.2%
• Opticians: 94.9%
• Speech language pathologists: 92.9%
• Denturists: 92.9%
• Dental assistants: 92.8%
• Dental hygienists: 92.6%
• Audiologists/hearing instrument practitioners: 91.9%
• Dental technicians: 90.7%
• Massage therapists: 87.9%
• Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists: 79%
• Chiropractors: 78.1%
• Naturopathic physicians: 69.2%
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