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Chiropractors, naturopaths, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists have the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination among health professionals in British Columbia, with less than 80 per cent of their members disclosing that they have had at least two doses of a vaccine.

Vaccination rates for most health colleges in B.C. were released Tuesday. Dieticians were tied with physicians and surgeons with the highest rates, at 98 per cent.

“The goal is to make sure members of the public have the general vaccination information they need to help them make informed decisions as they seek treatment or services from a regulated health professional,” Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters as he released the data.

But the disclosure falls far short of the Provincial Health Officer’s original intent: Dr. Bonnie Henry said last fall that all health care professionals would need to be vaccinated in order to practice.

Health professionals working in residential care, acute care and community care settings are required to be vaccinated in B.C. Dr. Henry initially sought to broaden the scope of that requirement to others delivering health care services.

“An unvaccinated person who provides care or services in a hospital or community setting puts patients, residents, clients, staff and other persons who provide care or services at risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2, and constitutes a health hazard under the Public Health Act;” stated a public health order she signed in October.

That order was changed in March so that health practitioners only needed to disclose their vaccine status to their college.

The data released on Tuesday only shows vaccination rates by profession, not on an individual basis. As well, the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives - the largest of the colleges - did not meet the deadline for providing the data to the government. Johanna Ward, a spokesperson from the college, said those figures are expected to be available later this spring.

Dr. Henry said her overriding interest is patient safety, but her original decision ran up against the privacy rights of health practitioners.

The requirement met resistance from some of the regulatory bodies for health care providers. Members of the College of Chiropractors of B.C. voted in December to oppose the mandatory vaccination policy.

Dr. Henry said Tuesday she is still working with the province’s 18 health colleges to find a way to provide more information to patients.

“There are ethical principles around protection of privacy that are very, very important,” she told reporters. “And there are principles around patient safety that trump everything. So it is finding that balance and we’re just working through how to do that.”

In a public health order on March 7, Dr. Henry noted that unvaccinated people are at higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 to other people and that “health professionals pose a risk of transmission of virus to the public as they provide services to populations of the public who, due to age or underlying health status and despite vaccination status of the patient, are likely to be vulnerable to infection with COVID-19.”

While most pandemic health restrictions have been lifted in B.C., Dr. Henry said COVID-19 continues to put pressure on the health care system.

“We are still in this pandemic. And we know there are still strains on the health care system. And as we come together more frequently with more people, the virus has more opportunities to spread,” she said.

“We need to plan for what’s coming. In particular I’m concerned and working with my team to look at what are the possible scenarios that we may face ... when we get into the next respiratory season in the fall.”

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