VICTORIA — British Columbia's Education Ministry has released new guidelines to help school boards with COVID-19 vaccination policies, leaving any final decisions up to the respective boards.
The ministry says the guidelines, which include gathering data and consultation with First Nations and employee groups, will help school boards encourage vaccination in their communities and to determine if a mandatory vaccination policy works best for them.
The ministry says it will also work with schools, public and private, to make sure they have the tools and resources to support the process.
Teri Mooring, the head of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, had urged the provincial government earlier this month to take leadership on implementing a vaccination policy for teachers across the province.
B.C. reported 649 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with 13 more deaths.
The province reports that 89.4 per cent of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 83.9 per cent have received a second dose.
Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.'s education minister, said in a statement the province has worked to make sure school safety plans were robust and supported since the start of the pandemic.
"With guidelines now available, trustees can make decisions around vaccination policies that work best for their communities as we work together to continue to support a culture of vaccination in our schools," she said.
Mooring previously noted vaccination rates are lower in some parts of the province, like the Peace region in the north, so trustees there may face "a high level of pushback" if they require teachers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.
"We could have a situation where the parts of the province that need mandates the most would be the least likely to implement them," she said on Oct. 8, adding a patchwork approach could affect any unvaccinated teachers working in multiple districts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.
The Canadian Press