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Ontario makes COVID-19 vaccination policies mandatory for high-risk workplaces

Tuesday, August 17, 2021 @ 3:26 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Aug. 17, the Ontario government announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies must be implemented for individuals working in hospitals, home and community care service providers, post-secondary institutions, licensed retirement homes, women’s shelters, as well as group homes and day programs for adults with disabilities and children.

According to a government release, Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health, has issued this directive to “protect vulnerable patients and staff in settings where the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and the Delta variant is higher.”

This includes “mandating hospitals and home and community care service providers to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers, and for ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for paramedics.”

“The vaccination policy must be effective no later than September 7, 2021, and at a minimum will require these individuals to provide proof of one of three things: full vaccination against COVID-19; a medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session,” the release explained.

The release stressed that individuals “who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing.” The workplaces deemed high risk will also be “required to track and report on the implementation of their policies to the provincial government.”

According to the government release, 81 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and over have received a first dose, and the province is “expected to reach its target of 75 per cent vaccinated with a second dose later this month.” However, “out of an abundance of caution the government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is pausing the exit from the Roadmap to Reopen.”

“The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts will continue to monitor the data to determine when it is safe to exit the Roadmap and lift the majority of public health and workplace safety measures currently in place,” the release added.

The Ministry of Education also “intends to introduce a vaccination disclosure policy for all publicly funded school board employees, and staff in private schools as well as for all staff in licensed childcare settings for the 2021-22 school year, with rapid antigen testing requirements for staff who are not immunized against COVID-19.”

According to the release, Ontario will offer “third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those at highest-risk, providing them with an extra layer of protection against the Delta variant.”

Those at high risk include:
  • “Transplant recipients (including solid organ transplant and hematopoietic stem cell transplants);
  • Patients with hematological cancers (examples include lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia) on active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy);
  • Recipients of an anti-CD20 agent (e.g. rituximab, ocrelizumab, ofatumumab); and
  • Residents of high-risk congregate settings including long-term care homes, higher-risk licensed retirement homes and First Nations elder care lodges.”

“Keeping a low rate of infection in our communities and protecting our most vulnerable is how we can keep our schools, our businesses and our social settings as safe as possible while minimizing disruption,” said Moore, in a statement.

“To provide the best protection to each individual while learning to live with the virus, we are taking action by requiring individuals who work in higher-risk settings to be fully vaccinated, by providing a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to certain groups who have a decreased immune response and by expanding the eligibility to the children born in 2009 or earlier,” he explained.

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