School District 43 (SD43) will not require a vaccine mandate for its 4,400 staff, the Tri-City News has learned.
On Tuesday (Nov. 23), the board of education voted not to make staff get the shot, citing already high vaccination rates in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra, few staff cases and a vaccine coming soon for children aged five to 11.
"The vaccination rates in this community are already very high among those eligible," said newly-elected board chair Michael Thomas.
He said the district consulted with Fraser Health medical health officers and reviewed data before making a decision.
Although he noted that some schools have still seen COVID-19 cases, some as recently as last week, he said protocols currently in place in schools are keeping COVID-19 cases down and most of the cases have been among younger children not eligible to get a jab.
"We want to encourage everyone to go out and get a vaccination, the majority of exposures we are seeing are in the younger cohort," Thomas said.
Eligible school-aged children in the Tri-Cities — those between 12 and 17 years old — currently hold a 90.2 per cent single-dose vaccination rate and 86.6 per cent for two jabs.
The region is currently averaging 91.6 per cent first-jab and 89 per cent two-jab rates among those 12 years and older.
The same age group also posts a seven per cent third-dose vaccination average as of Monday (Nov. 22)
PFIZER COMING TO YOUNG B.C. CHILDREN
The province announced this week children in British Columbia aged five to 11 years old will soon have access to Pfizer's COVID-19 pediatric vaccine when bookings open on Monday (Nov. 29).
The vaccine uses a lower dose (10 micrograms), at one-third of the dose formulated for older children and adults, which the provincial government says will provide effective protection tailored to children's immune systems.
So far, most school districts have decided not to implement a vaccine mandate for schools. However, one group of teachers would still like to see one in place for staff.
The Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association (VESTA) is calling on the Vancouver School Board to reconsider their decision not to implement a vaccine mandate for employees, according to a news release.
VACCINE MANDATED FOR BC GOVERNMENT WORKERS
Meanwhile, 30,000 B.C. public service employees were required to provide proof of full vaccination on Monday (Nov. 22).
Those who did not comply and don’t have a valid medical exemption or other accommodation will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence for three months, according to the B.C. Public Service Agency.
Return to work for vaccinated employees is Dec. 1, extended because of the provincial emergency declared for B.C. floods.
Unvaccinated employees will not be able to use vacation or other banked leave time in lieu of leave without pay, the agency said.
It adds unvaccinated employees could be terminated after three months of being placed on leave without pay.
- with files from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News, and Cindy E. Harnett, Times Colonist