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Ontario mandates COVID-19 vaccines for long-term care workers - CityNews Toronto

A resident chats with workers at Orchard Villa Long-Term Care in Pickering, Ontario on Monday June 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The Ontario government has announced they will be mandating COVID-19 vaccines for long-term care workers.

Minister Rod Phillips made the announcement Friday, saying all in-home staff, support workers, students, and volunteers will have to be vaccinated by November 15, 2021 or provide a medical exemption.

If they have not be vaccinated or provide an exemption by Nov. 15, they will not be able to enter a long-term care home to work.

Long-term care homes have been calling for mandatory vaccinations for weeks, saying it would both protect residents and ensure facilities don’t lose their staff to other health-care facilities.

Previously, workers were required to disclose their vaccination status and those who are unvaccinated for non-medical reasons have to undergo education about the importance of immunization.

Phillips said that while 90 per cent of staff overall have received at least one dose, there were dozens of homes with vaccination rates below 80 per cent.

“It’s one of the reasons I asked that we have home-by-home data you could see the variations and you could simply see that we were not going to get to the level of vaccination that we needed to get,” Phillips said.

There are currently 19 homes with an outbreak, five of which have not reported a resident case.

Phillips also said they will begin randomly testing individuals and staff in order to identify breakthrough cases as soon as possible.

Services Employees International Union Healthcare (SEIU), the union that represents long-term care workers, said the vast majority of their members support mandatory vaccinations.

“Our members have told us that vaccinations mean knowing you’re protected and knowing that the person you’re working shoulder to shoulder with is protecting you,” read a statement from President Sharleen Stewart.

“COVID-19 is a killer. The Delta variant is even more deadly. No senior should die because of this virus and not one more healthcare worker should lose their life simply because they went to work,” continued Stewart’s statement.

Long-term care homes were hit hard during the first and second waves of COVID-19, but have managed to avoid major outbreaks during the third and fourth waves of the virus due to high vaccination rates among residents.

A total of 3,818 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19, along with 13 staff members.