Ontario makes COVID-19 vaccination policies mandatory for high-risk settings

August 19, 2021 | Lisa Goodfellow, Arjun Gandhi

As a result of the emergence of the Delta variant, the Government of Ontario is taking steps to increase protection for the most vulnerable populations, including frail seniors, immunocompromised individuals and young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.

The Government of Ontario’s actions include:

  • Making COVID-19 vaccination policies mandatory in high-risk settings;
  • Pausing the province’s exit from the Roadmap to Reopen;
  • Providing third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable populations; and
  • Expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to children born in 2009 or earlier.

COVID-19 Vaccination Policies for High-Risk Settings

To protect vulnerable patients and staff in settings where the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and the Delta variant is higher, hospitals and home and community care service providers must now have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers. Ambulance services must have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for paramedics. The vaccination policy must be effective by September 7, 2021, and at a minimum will require the specified 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.  Note: this is not a mandatory vaccination requirement.

These employers 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.

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 getting vaccinated even more convenient and accessible for eligible students, their families, educators and school staff returning to school this fall.

Similar vaccination policies will also be implemented in other higher-risk settings such as:

  • 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.

These changes, while welcome, still fall short of requiring vaccination of employees in these settings, leaving employers unsure of whether and to what extent they may do so.

To discuss your COVID-19 policy concerns, please reach out to a member of Miller Thomson LLP’s National Labour and Employment Group.

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