COVID-19 vaccines : As the highly contagious Delta variant skyrockets, vaccine mandates and restrictions on the unvaccinated are increasing.On Thursday, the B.C. government announced it was mandating vaccines for health-care workers and others in long-term care homes.
On Friday, the Canadian government announced that vaccines will be mandatory for federal employees, which would include those in the RCMP and military.The federal government said it expects employers in federally regulated industries to do the same.Air travellers and passengers on interprovincial trains will also have to be vaccinated.Across the border, in the United States, vaccine mandates are spreading quickly.
For example, U.S. federal agencies are requiring workers to be vaccinated and the City of San Francisco is barring those who are unvaccinated from indoor dining, bars, nightclubs, gyms, large concerts, theatres and other events held inside.And a U.S. federal court decision Thursday allows Indiana University to require students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Although B.C. universities have, so far, not imposed vaccine mandates and the province has not indicated it will do so for public grade schools, expect more vaccine mandates and restrictions as COVID-19 settles in as a permanent fixture and particularly if the Delta variant continues to spread, say experts.
“We’re slowly building towards to what new normal is going to look like,” said Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.That new normal will include regulations around vaccinations, he said.Conway stressed that vaccination protects against serious infection and transmission of the virus, noting that 90 per cent or more of people getting infected now are not vaccinated.
While in British Columbia, and Canada, vaccination rates are high, it has not been enough to stop breakthrough infections and a rapidly escalating case count linked to the spreading Delta variant, a mutation of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, more than 90 per cent of new case in the province are from the Delta variant, first detected in India.Research, including that compiled by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, indicates the Delta variant may be twice as contagious as previous variants and may cause more serious illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people.
On Friday, another 717 new cases were announced in B.C., levels not seen since May in B.C. after the province hit its peak daily case numbers in April.Of the new cases, 140 are in Fraser health, 101 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 376 in Interior Health, 40 in Island Health and 60 in Northern Health.
There are currently 11 active outbreaks in assisted-living and long-term care homes, up from eight on Thursday.Hospitalizations are rising again as well, with 82 people hospitalized, 39 of those in intensive care.There were no new deaths reported, which stand at 1,779.
It’s not known exactly how many unvaccinated workers are employed at hundreds of long-term care homes in B.C., but some workforces are vaccinated at levels less than the provincial average of 72 per cent fully vaccinated, say provincial health officials.
The federal vaccine mandate will affect a significant number of workers in B.C.There are close to half a million people who work directly for the federal government, a Crown corporation, the military or the RCMP across the country.
And nearly a million more work in federally regulated industries, which includes banks and airlines. Federally-regulated companies also include those such as CN and CP rail, said Transport Canada officials.
British Columbia is home to federal offices and agencies, including for Canada Revenue Services, Environment Canada, Health Canada and Fisheries and Oceans, as well as federally-regulated agencies such as the Port of Vancouver, which would also be covered by the new requirements, said federal officials.“We believe the government of Canada must play a role in setting a good example,” Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Liu said in a written statement to Postmedia.
Simon Fraser University lecturer Robert Adamson said while the vaccine mandates in the public and private sector will be challenged legally, he didn’t believe those challenges would be successful because the measures are based on a collective public good.
And Adamson, who has a Master of Laws from the London School of Economics, said it is likely that more vaccine mandates will be put in place all over the world, particularly if cases continue to rise and people are getting ill.
“A few months ago, I think the calculus was different and provincial and federal governments were more reluctant to use any type of mandatory measures. Now, things have changed … the numbers have changed,” said Adamson.Earlier this summer, Australia made vaccines mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.And Britain is taking the same step by October.