Central Okanagan trustees not ready to make vaccine mandated decision

New Westminster and Surrey school boards vote against mandate

Health-care workers from Women’s College Hospital prepare doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccine clinic in a Toronto neighbourhood earlier this year. (Contributed)

Decisions by the Surrey and New Westminster school districts to not impose a mandatory vaccine policy won’t directly impact how the Central Okanagan Board of Education proceeds, says school board chair Moyra Baxter.

Baxter noted one of the reasons the provincial government downloaded the mandatory vaccine decision on school boards is vaccination rates vary across the province.

“We do know the vaccination rates are generally higher in the Lower Mainland than in Interior school districts so that probably played a part in those decisions being made,” Baxter said.

She said the school district is still accumulating data on how many teachers and support staff have been vaccinated by anonymous surveying, and a report recommending how to proceed will be forthcoming from superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal.

READ MORE: B.C.’s largest school district decides against mandating COVID-19 vaccine

“We are not yet in a position as a board to make any decision yet,” Baxter said.

“Until we know how many (teachers and support staff) are vaccinated, it is difficult to know how to move forward.”

In a statement released on Tuesday (Nov. 2) by Surrey board of education vice-chair Terry Allen, the Surrey trustees made their decision in a very measured way with consideration to information provided by numerous sources.

“Schools are a low-risk setting for transmission and public health experts have assured us that our schools are safe and that we do not need 100 per cent vaccination rates for safe operation,” Allen said.

“Our board recognizes the importance of vaccines, and we continue to encourage anyone that is eligible to get vaccinated.”

In Surrey, 87.6 per cent of those aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated, while 93.8 per cent have had one dose as of Oct. 25.

Allen noted the Surrey board will not be seeking voluntary disclosure of vaccine status, “but we will be gathering information on vaccine status which is already provided by public health.”

Updated statistics last week from BC Centre for Disease Control show Glenmore’s health service area has the highest rate of vaccination in the Okanagan at 87 per cent for receiving both doses, followed by the Mission area at 86 per cent.

The highest vaccination rate is registered by Kamloops Centre south at 89 per cent for both doses, but out of the 23 community health service areas in the Thompson-Okanagan, only this trio rate rank higher than the provincial average.

READ MORE: B.C. groups concerned over lack of compromise in COVID-19 vaccine