By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor

Tuesday marked the deadline for the majority of BC health care workers to get their COVID-19 vaccine or be forced to stop working until they do. This is the latest in a swath of measures by the BC government and federal government to combat case counts of COVID-19.

Federal workers, including the RCMP, have been told the same thing—unless you’ve got a valid exemption, get vaccinated or you’ll be put on administrative leave, even if you’re already working from home.

While I can understand why we as a society would want our health care workers to be vaccinated, given the higher chance of outbreaks in a high-risk medical setting such as an ICU ward or Neo-natal ward, I’m confused why the government is mandating vaccinations for employees that have little contact with other people and may already work from home.

At the very least, why are no accommodations being made for people who have the option to work in low-risk settings?

Northern Health is in a bad way with COVID-19 right now—four new deaths over the weekend, with a current total of 78 in hospital and 21 in the ICU. But laws that limit people’s basic rights, must be as targeted as possible, ie) as effective as possible. Are laws like employment-mandated vaccinations for non-health care workers and complete bans on outdoor gatherings of the unvaccinated reasonable?

It seems like our leaders have fallen prey to a gamified version of COVID-19 where any weapon is justified in bringing the numbers down, regardless of how effective those measures are.

I’ve voiced my support for vaccines many times on this editorial page. Vaccines are the best choice for preventing illness to yourself and others (several studies show being vaccinated reduces the chance you’ll spread it to others if you get infected, and the reverse is also true, which is why it’s not just a personal decision). But coercing people to get vaccinated by removing them from their job or denying them EI without attempting to accommodate them in a low-risk setting will deepen distrust, especially in already marginalized communities.

If you have lived a privileged life and haven’t experienced harmful treatment from governments or official institutions, it is easy to believe the government has your best interests at heart and follow their guidance. Many haven’t been so lucky, and it is easy to see why they might not immediately jump on the bandwagon.

Regardless of the reasons why people are resisting vaccination, I believe our society should make accommodations when it’s able to do so. Blanket policies that punish the “non-compliant” by removing their livelihood should only be implemented in extreme situations, and where no other accommodations can be made.

Are people who work remotely really an emergency public health threat?