B.C.’s auditor general says data gaps during COVID-19 vaccine rollout posed risks

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VICTORIA — British Columbia’s auditor general says the Ministry of Health should have access to a registry of residents and staff in long-term care facilities as well as heath-care workers after concluding it sometimes “struggled” to collect reliable COVID-19 vaccination information for high-risk groups.

In his latest report on the province’s COVID-19 vaccine coverage, auditor general Michael Pickup says the ministry had processes to estimate vaccination rates for residents and staff in long-term care and assisted living but the process was cumbersome.

He says that means there was a risk to the quality of data collected and the vaccination rates for those priority groups could have been inaccurate.

Pickup says the province was able to estimate the number of health-care workers who were vaccinated in the early stages of the rollout when vaccines were focused on those most likely to be exposed to patients with COVID-19 or to spread the virus to patients.

As more workers qualified for vaccines, the ministry continued to track the number who were vaccinated, but it did not revise its population estimate to account for newly eligible staff, meaning the coverage rate was “overstated and was not useful” from February to October 2021.

In October 2021, an order was issued requiring vaccination for all health-care workers working in health authorities and the ministry was able to use health authority databases of staff to help implement the order. 

Pickup says his office was told ministry and health services authority staff did not have the authority to access those databases until the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. 

“Once they had access to these databases, the ministry had adequate processes to monitor vaccination rates and regularly provided this information to decision makers,” the report says.

The COVID-19 vaccination program was the largest vaccination campaign in B.C. history, with nearly 14 million doses administered between December 2020 and December 2022.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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