Lunch +Learn Wrap Up: should vaccinations for seniors care home staff be mandatory?

On May 12th BCCPA and EngAge BC hosted a virtual Lunch + Learn online panel discussion on the issue of whether to make vaccinations mandatory for those working in the seniors living and care sector. As highlighted in the media, the issue of mandatory vaccinations is one of significant controversy with strong conflicting opinions. While the BC government and most provincial governments have indicated they have no intention to make vaccinations mandatory, others have argued they should be.

The panel discussion was moderated by Terry Lake, on the ethical implications of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, allowing the refusal of vaccinations, and making trade-offs between personal liberty and public health. Our panelists included:

  • Al Jina, LLB, President and CEO of Park Place Seniors Living
  • Dr. Annalee Yassi, Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
  • Barb MacLean, Executive Director of Family Caregivers of BC

Watch the Forum

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Mandatory vaccinations: some background

A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, for example, notes that an effective vaccine provided to all health care workers in Canada will protect both the health workforce and patients, reducing the overall burden of COVID-19 on services. It also recommends that provincial governments should put in place rules for mandatory vaccination of health care workers that cut across all public and private settings and should not leave this to the discretion of individual employers.[i]

The Quebec government also earlier in April issued a decree that verges on making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health-care workers in certain sectors, including long term care. The decree states that workers in certain sectors will have to show their employer proof of COVID-19 vaccination and that those who refuse to provide proof of vaccination as well as those who received their vaccine dose within the previous 14 days will need to undergo recurrent preventive screening.[ii] Likewise, the UK government is also looking at potentially making vaccinations mandatory for its care home staff.[iii]

In light of these issues, along with looking at existing legal framework in BC and Canada, our panel will discuss the legal and other implications, including ethical considerations, of mandating vaccinations either by government or by employers. In particular, the discussion will include the pros and cons of making vaccinations mandatory as well as whether this is something that should be advanced further either by government or employers. Likewise, it will look at some of the considerations that governments and employers should consider if were to make vaccinations mandatory including privacy implications, court or union challenges, and ethical ramifications.