Across the country, many companies, government organizations, and campuses are implementing COVID-19 vaccination mandates, meaning that employees must provide proof of vaccination to continue working.
This increase in vaccine mandates popping up across the city and province are unsurprising following the plea from Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, for employers to enforce workplace vaccination policies for employee and public protection.
“Knowing employees’ vaccination status may be important to help employers take appropriate action quickly, in the event of COVID-19 cases in the workplace, to protect employees and their families, and the general public,” a Toronto Public Health representative tells Excalibur.
“It is recommended that a COVID-19 vaccination policy for workplaces should list alternative options for workers who decline to get vaccinated for reasons protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, or who are unable to complete their vaccination series for medical reasons,” they add, going on to list personal protective equipment (PPE) and reassignment as additional measures to be taken outside of vaccination.
For the City of Toronto, all employees must disclose their vaccination status by September 13 and must be fully vaccinated by October 30. According to Brad Ross, chief communications officer for the City of Toronto, staff who have not been vaccinated, or have not disclosed their status, will have to undergo “mandatory education on the benefits of vaccination.”
“The sessions will provide staff with more information about the vaccines available in Canada, how they work, vaccine safety, side effects, ways to get vaccinated, and community immunity,” Ross tells Excalibur.
While he states that the City will “comply with its human rights obligations” and work towards accommodating employees who are legally protected with an accommodation, the future in general is still rather unknown for employees who cannot, or refuse to, receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Air Canada notably announced their vaccination mandate, in which COVID-19 vaccination became a “condition of employment” for the company, as stated in their news release posted on August 25. Similar to the City of Toronto’s plans, Air Canada announced that while they will honour accommodations, and those who fail to be fully vaccinated by October 30 “will have consequences up to and including unpaid leave or termination.”
“Vaccines are a powerful tool for protecting our communities and helping curb the spread of COVID-19,” says Yanni Dagonas, deputy spokesperson for York. The university recently announced that all community members must be vaccinated in order to work on, or visit, campus. Starting on September 7, proof of full vaccination must be uploaded to York’s YU Screen.
“We recognize that not every community member will be able to be fully vaccinated by the first day of the fall term,” states Dagonas. “Limited exceptions will be provided for valid medical and human rights reasons. The university will make every effort to support community members to receive their vaccinations in a timely way, and to access testing in the meantime where needed.”
Dagonas continues on to say that those who are awaiting their first or second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, plus those who cannot be vaccinated, will have to “adhere to additional health and safety measures,” in the meantime. From September 7 to October 19, those who are not fully vaccinated will have to submit a negative COVID-19 test result in order to return to campus.
While Toronto’s vaccination rates show over 65 per cent of the city as fully vaccinated, we aren’t quite out of the clear as of yet. According to Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, as reported by CBC, over 85 per cent of the population should be vaccinated to combat the potential fourth wave.
Many of these vaccination mandates include a possible termination of employees if they do not comply, but it is unknown as of yet how each specific rule will be enforced. In this case, Toronto Public Health is still pushing for employees to comply and get vaccinated as soon as they are able to.
“We continue to work hard to make vaccines as accessible as possible, with a focus on bringing vaccinations directly to workplaces, faith groups, organizations and communities that experience barriers to vaccination and low vaccine uptake. Our goal is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly as possible,” they say.