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B.C. health officials say mandates and restrictions unlikely but tease their return

BC health officials are encouraging all British Columbians five years of age and older to register for a booster vaccine as they have warn of a possible rise in COVID-19 cases this fall.

Officials said on Tuesday that the province will start receiving Moderna’s bivalent vaccination this week, which Health Canada claims offers superior protection against Omicron.

“For all of us, with COVID all around us, it’s been a busy summer,” said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“British Columbians have continued to protect ourselves, our love ones, and our communities by getting vaccinated in record numbers.”

Dix bragged that within two weeks of the pediatric vaccine’s availability on August 2, more than 20,000 BC parents had registered their kids to receive injections.

“Getting our vaccines and our boosters for ourselves and our children have protected us against severe COVID outcomes,” said Dix.

In her opening remarks, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned of a “uncertain trajectory” in the upcoming months.

“While I do believe we are emerging from the pandemic part of it, it is clear that COVID-19 will be with us for the long term,” said Henry.

“We are not yet at a point where we can let our guard down.”

Waring there may be other “variants of concern” that emerge in the future. Henry then told British Columbians to look at COVID how they look at the weather

“We need to look at, you know, what is the weather on a day-to-day basis. Like we would look outside and say ‘Yeah, it’s summer, so are we expecting sun or rain? Do we need sunscreen or an umbrella?’” she said.

She compared sunscreen and umbrella to a “COVID perspective” which means remembering to physical distance when sick, masks and vaccines while “staying up to date” with boosters as a way to address the “COVID climate.”

Henry states vaccination is “without a doubt” the reason we don’t have broad mandates like masking and restrictions like business closures and physical distancing which has been proven to be unruly to society.

We’re now in a different “climate” than we were a year ago. “The level of immunity we have from infection and vaccination has been a game changer” said Henry

A reporter asked if mask mandates and vaccine passports are on the table for the future and if they are what will the trigger be, is it a certain number of deaths or hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

“Transmission in the community, who’s getting sick, who’s getting hospitalized, the impact on health-care workers and the system, so it is a little bit of everything,” Henry responded, adding vaccination and previous infections have reduced the risk of serious illness in the majority of people.

Henry explains blanket mandates should only be a last resort, “doing a mandate, making it a legal requirement for people across the board to do something is actually a very — it’s a last resort tool that we use judiciously in public health.”

Then she teases the idea of returning mandates “I don’t see us getting there unless we have the emergence of something very new and different where we had that susceptibility again. We know how to deal with a lot of this. We know that ourselves, all of us have had experience with this virus now.”

When appointments for the bivalent vaccine can be made, British Columbians will be contacted via the Get Vaccinated system, and non-bivalent boosters can be scheduled six months after the initial dose.

According to officials, the province will also provide COVID and influenza vaccinations at the same time in the fall. Henry stated that further information on the fall vaccination program will be next week.

For BC healthcare workers, the COVID-19 vaccination is a requirement for employment in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community care settings. There’s currently a pending legal challenge to overturn the mandate.

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