For now, Coast Mountains School District 82 (CMSD82) will not be mandating that its employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“In consultation with Northern Health and through weighing the evidence and consequences in developing vaccination policies, we at this time are not making any policy decisions,” said board chair Margaret Warcup at a Nov. 24 board meeting.
The board of education came to that decision behind closed doors, a procedure usually reserved for personnel, legal or land matters.
While vaccinations are not mandatory, both the school board and the province encourages everyone to be vaccinated. In October, the provincial government made the decision to download the responsibility to make decisions on vaccine mandates to individual school districts.
CMSD82 received a draft document outlining guidelines from the province at its Oct. 27 meeting, and Warcup said on Nov. 24 that the board will continue to monitor the situation, but believes that health officials should be making the decision.
“We will continue to monitor and collect input from both Northern Health and professional health professionals, in doing so we are confirming our belief that health is where the expertise lies, and any decisions regarding a vaccination mandate should be made by our medical professionals,” she said.
The board’s deferral of a decision on mandatory vaccination comes at a time when British Columbia Centre for Disease Control statistics indicate vaccination rates vary significantly in different CMSD82 communities.
For example, as of Nov. 23, Kitimat has the highest two-dose vaccination rate in the north (94 per cent), but in the Upper Skeena local health area, which includes the Hazeltons, the vaccination rate is 78 per cent.
In general, Northern B.C.’s high rate of COVID-19 cases has resulted in provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urging northern school districts to mandate vaccinations.
So far no school district in the province has issued a mandatory vaccination policy.
— With files from Rod Link