The Surrey Board of Education has decided against mandating COVID-19 vaccines for staff.
In a release Tuesday (Nov. 2), the board says that “after carefully considering the matter,” it won’t be mandating the vaccine.
“Our Board recognizes the importance of vaccines, and we continue to encourage anyone that is eligible to get vaccinated,” said Terry Allen, vice-chair of the board.
“We approached our decision not to implement a mandate in a very measured way and considered information from many sources, including Fraser Health, the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.
Allen added the board has “an obligation to our community to keep our schools open and to continue providing a safe learning environment for our students.”
“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% vaccination rates for safe operation.”
The release adds the board weighed the pros and cons of a mandate, adding public health officials “cautioned that a mandate may exacerbate inequities (lower vaccination rates among low-income, racialized minorities) and further entrench those who are opposed to vaccinations.”
This comes a little more than a week after the district, which is the largest in B.C., said it was continuing to discuss a mandate after the Ministry of Education released “guidelines” to support school boards that are considering vaccine requirements. It essentially told boards to determine their own policy based on the “guidelines.”
The board pointed to high vaccination rates in Surrey and White Rock.
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.
Surrey school-based staff were among the first in B.C.’s education system to be vaccinated after the region was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in the second and third waves. In the days after first doses were announced for Surrey school-based staff, district spokesperson Ritinder Matthew said between the Surrey school district and independent schools, 10,919 staff had been vaccinated by end of day April 4.
The board, all of whom are fully vaccinated, said it 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.”
Meantime, a survey from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation found that 94 per cent of teachers are fully vaccinated, while only two per cent of members said they were unvaccinated, one per cent are partially vaccinated pending their second dose and four per cent did not respond.