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Ontario mandates COVID-19 vaccinations for staff, volunteers in long-term care homes

Friday, October 01, 2021 @ 3:47 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Oct. 1, the Ontario government announced COVID-19 vaccinations would be “mandatory for all in-home staff, support workers, students, and volunteers” of long-term care homes by Nov. 15.

The government will also “expanded inspections of homes” and redirect “provincial resources to enhance and audit existing testing in homes.”

The Minister of Long-Term Care, Rod Phillips, said in a statement that “long-term care residents have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

“As new variants continue to spread, we are seeing a growing number of outbreaks in long-term care homes where the risk to those most vulnerable remains high,” he explained.

“This enhanced suite of measures, including mandatory vaccinations for those working in the homes of long-term care residents, is one more way we will provide them the greatest level of protection possible,” he added.

A government release noted that vaccination rates “of staff in many homes are not high enough in the face of the risk posed by the delta variant, and this is putting vulnerable residents at risk.”

The release explained that “mandating vaccination for in-home staff has now become essential, and homes are now required to meet the following requirements:

  • Staff, support workers, students, and volunteers will have until November 15, 2021 to show proof that they have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or to show proof of a valid medical exemption.
  • Staff who do not have all required doses or a valid medical exemption by the deadline will not be able to enter a long-term care home to work.
  • Newly hired staff will be required to be fully vaccinated before they begin working in a home unless they have a valid medical exemption.
  • Homes will begin randomly testing fully vaccinated individuals, including staff, caregivers and visitors, to help detect possible breakthrough cases of COVID-19 as early as possible.”

The government’s announcement stressed that fully vaccinated staff “will continue to be able to work in more than one long-term care home, retirement home or other health service provider setting.”

“In addition to adding randomized testing of vaccinated individuals, homes will continue to regularly test individuals who are not fully vaccinated,” the release noted, adding that the Ministry “will leverage provincial testing resources to inspect and audit these results by sending testing teams into homes to validate the results that homes have been reporting to the province.”

“The Ministry will also step up rigorous inspections of homes’ infection, prevention and control measures,” the release explained.

The government also noted that “homes will continue to be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies, including overall staff immunization rates.”

“To promote transparency, the Ministry of Long-Term Care is publicly posting long-term care home staff vaccination rates. To protect staff privacy, individual immunization status is not shared with the province,” the release added.

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