Coming to a workplace near you—vaccination or mandatory testing until you get one. With the fourth wave of COVID well underway the Ontario government. Is making COVID-19 vaccination policies mandatory in high-risk settings, pausing indefinitely any move beyond the step three public health protocols now in place, and providing third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable populations. The government is also expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to children born in 2009 or earlier.
Healthcare settings must have vaccination policy
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has issued a directive 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.
Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing. These settings will be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies to the provincial government. This is similar to the vaccination policy requirements currently in place for long-term care homes.
Warning of a bad fall ahead
Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health says he expects to see a difficult fall season as temperatures cool and people revert to indoor activity.
Schools will have vaccination policies
To support the return to school plan, the Ministry of Education 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 child care settings for the 2021-22 school year, with rapid antigen testing requirements for staff who are not immunized against COVID-19. The Ontario government is also working with public health units and publicly funded school boards to run voluntary vaccination clinics in or nearby schools to make vaccines even more convenient and accessible for eligible students, their families, educators and school staff returning to school this fall.
Vaccination policies will also be implemented in other higher-risk settings such as:
Licensed retirement homes;
Women’s shelters; and Congregate group homes and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings.
Third doses for medically vulnerable
The province will also begin offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those at highest-risk. This includes: 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.
All kids turning 12 can get shot
Starting on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, all children turning 12 years old before the end of 2021 will be eligible to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and can book their appointment through the provincial booking system, through their public health unit, or pharmacies, or can walk-in to vaccination clinics across the province.
To date, more than 20 million of doses have been administered in Ontario. More than 81 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and over have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 73 per cent have received both doses.
Vaccine certificates and passports
Individuals can prove they are fully vaccinated by showing the physical or emailed receipt that was provided to them at the time of vaccination. Vaccination receipts can also be downloaded or printed through the provincial portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900. This version of the vaccine receipt contains a watermark and a digital signature to deter forgery.
The federal government has announced its plan to implement a national vaccine passport for international travel. In addition to the official proof of vaccination provided by the Ministry of Health, a vaccine passport provided by the federal government can be used domestically as proof of immunization should it be required by a business or organization.