Ontario Ministry of Health provides clarity for medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination

September 17, 2021 | Inna Koldorf

With employers keeping busy drafting and enforcing vaccination policies in the last few weeks, many questions have been raised about medical exemptions from the requirement to get the COVID-19 vaccine. While employers are aware that human rights legislation requires them to accommodate employees’ medical conditions which may exempt employees from vaccination, the medical conditions requiring exemptions have been far from clear, and have left both employers and physicians without much of a direction on handling the issue of exemptions.

On September 1, 2021, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the “CPSO”) released an updated Frequently Asked Questions document (the “FAQ”) for Ontario physicians addressing the increasing requests from patients to write notes and complete forms exempting patients from vaccination. In the FAQ, the CPSO states that there are very few acceptable medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination. As a result, any medical exemption documents provided by physicians must clearly specify the medical information to support the exemption, and the effective time period, as some exemptions may be temporary. In the FAQ, the CPSO stresses that physicians may decline to write notes and complete forms when the patient does not clearly fall within an approved exemption. However, a list of exemptions is not included in the FAQ.

Earlier this week, on September 14, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of Health released a short list of conditions (the “MOH list”) which may warrant an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination. The MOH list is intended to assist medical professionals in evaluating requests for exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine. The list of exemptions is restricted to severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis to a component of a COVID-19 vaccine, a reaction to a dose of the vaccine, a history of inflammation of the heart muscle (Myocarditis) for those aged 12 to 17, a history of four conditions specific to those receiving the Vaxzervia (AstraZeneca) vaccine, and those actively receiving two specific types of therapies for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Please review the complete list of exemptions here.

The CPSO’s FAQ together with the MOH list will provide medical professionals with specific parameters for approving employees for exemptions from vaccination. This will assist employers who are drafting and enforcing vaccination policies and may be dealing with a flurry of exemption requests from employees. If you have questions about your vaccination policy or would like assistance drafting a policy addressing COVID-19 vaccinations, please contact any of the lawyers in our Labour and Employment group.

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