Skip to content

Vaccine mandate for private doctors may be off the table

An unvaccinated North Vancouver doctor had asked patients to lobby for her
doctor examining child pandemic getty images
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is shifting directions on a plan to require family doctors to be vaccinated. | Getty Images

B.C. appears to be easing off its previously announced requirement that all private health-care workers in the province be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The decision may have implications for a North Vancouver doctor who caused a stir last week when she sent an email out to her patients, asking them to lobby the province to halt the requirement.

Dr. Sofia Bayfield, who works at North Shore Medical Group, a family medicine clinic in Central Lonsdale, told her patients that, for “very legitimate reasons,” she is unable to be vaccinated, although she didn’t specify what those reasons were. She also claimed her unvaccinated status presented no risk to patients as vaccinations do not lower the risk of transmission, and that people with natural immunity from a previous infection were the safest to be around.

During the March 10 press conference, B.C.'s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, confirmed she was changing direction from a previous order, which would have required all health-care workers in the province be vaccinated for COVID-19 by March 24, or have their licences pulled.

Instead, Henry issued a new order that requires all health professions to disclose their vaccination status to their regulatory colleges by March 31, with the possibility for more specific regulations to come once details could be worked out with the colleges.

“We're taking a more nuanced, risk-based approach. For some, that will mean that you must be vaccinated to practice in certain settings. But we're doing that on a more tailored basis to each of the Regulated Health Professions and in a step-wise way,” she said.

Bayfield emailed patients again on Friday (March 11), acknowledging the shift in direction from the PHO, adding “there will be NO suspension of any medical licenses.”

“This means that there will be no interruption to medical services from me to my patients. I appreciate all the kind words of support from so many of you. I will remind you, as mentioned in my previous message, to please respect my confidentiality,” it read.

Although it is not clear from the PHO which medical professionals may still face a vaccine mandate, the update is welcomed by Kim Carragher, who sometimes takes her senior mother to be treated by Bayfield.

“She has been just an incredible, incredible doctor to our family,” she said. “It's not a concern to me, whatsoever, for my mom's health, not at all.”

Although her mother has been vaccinated, Carragher said she does not trust the safety of vaccines for herself.

“[Bayfield] is actually following the science as far as I am concerned,” she said.

Bayfield also treated patients living at Amica Edgemont Village, a long-term care facility.

“She, like every visitor to our residence, followed all local and provincial public health guidelines while working onsite,” general manager Owain Jones wrote in a letter to families of residents on March 10. “We are currently reviewing our relationship with Dr. Bayfield, and we continue to offer our residents support from a dedicated group of medical professionals who remain active in our residence, including other visiting physicians and our on-site nursing team.”

Bayfield’s original email to patients also contained several stats suggesting that vaccines were ineffective because, in raw numbers, the majority of those who have gotten seriously ill with COVID-19 recently have been fully vaccinated. Bayfield’s assertions, though, do not take into account that more than 90 per cent of the B.C. population has been vaccinated, and those who haven’t been are disproportionately at risk.

According to stats released by the province on March 11, people who are unvaccinated account for 28.7 per cent of hospitalizations in the previous two weeks, despite being less than 10 per cent of the population at large. Adjusted for age and population, people who are not fully vaccinated were 4.3 times more likely to be hospitalized between Feb. 24 and March 9.

Coralynn Gehl, moderator of a North Shore-based COVID information page on Facebook, said she made the clear choice to seek out a new doctor after reading Bayfield’s email.

“Whether or not they changed the mandates, I think that the email she sent out was incredibly unprofessional and misleading. End of story,” she said. “I'm not going to go see a doctor who put out that kind of misinformation that, frankly, I think is damaging to the community.”

North Vancouver-Seymour NDP MLA Susie Chant said what happens now will be between Bayfield and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“The recommendations that are coming down are based on the science and the data that we have been accumulating over the last [two years],” she said.

The issue of mandatory vaccinations for health professionals has been divisive, and Chant said she has heard from constituents who fear losing their family doctor.

Bayfield did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither the college nor the Ministry of Health responded to requests for comment.

– with files from Nicholas Johansen / Castanet

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks