Boosters coming

Ontario to mandate vaccines for hospital workers, offer third shots to vulnerable

Premier Doug Ford’s government has “paused” any plans to lift remaining public health restrictions (in regard to Ontario exiting the Roadmap to Reopen) and is instead focusing on boosting vaccination efforts amidst fears that the province has entered a fourth wave, driven by the Delta variant.

On Tuesday, the province noted that third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to the following select vulnerable populations:

  • 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) for malignant hematologic disorders
  • Recipients of an anti-CD20 agent (e.g. rituximab, ocrelizumab, ofatumumab)
  • Residents of high-risk congregate settings including long-term care homes, higher-risk licensed retirement homes and First Nations elder care lodges

Also, starting on Wednesday, August 18, the province is expanding eligibility for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to all youth who are turning 12 in 2021, based on the most currently available empirical evidence.

The province also announced on Tuesday that it is making COVID-19 vaccination policies mandatory in high-risk settings, 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.

In a press statement, the province noted that anyone who doesn’t provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing.

Schools will also be impacted, to some degree. The Ministry of Education will 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 upcoming 2021-22 school year, with rapid antigen testing requirements for staff who are not immunized against COVID-19.

Voluntary vaccination clinics in or nearby schools will be set up to make vaccines even more convenient and accessible.

Vaccination policies will also be implemented in other higher-risk settings, including post-secondary institutions; 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.

The vaccine mandate directive received mixed reaction on Twitter. Infectious Diseases physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch called it a “great move”, while others wondered why it didn’t happen earlier.

Ontario reported 348 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday—a moderate drop from the 500+ cases the province saw in each of the previous five days. The cumulative case count now sits at 543,077. The province also reported 10 more deaths (six of the deaths occurred more than 2 months ago, and were updated based on data cleaning); the COVID-19 death toll in the province now sits at 9,428.

Out of the 348 new cases reported, 85 cases were from Toronto, 45 in Peel Region, 41 in Windsor-Essex, 34 in Hamilton, and 32 in York Region.

As of Tuesday morning, 20,254,502 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Ontario; 82.286% of people 12+ in Ontario have received at least one dose and 74.331% of people 12+ in Ontario are fully vaccinated.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO