Top doctor encourages Ottawa businesses to develop COVID-19 vaccination policies

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s top doctor is encouraging all businesses to develop COVID-19 vaccination policies for employees, as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government unveiled new vaccine policies for high-risk settings across the province. Employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers at hospitals and home care settings will, at a minimum, have to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, or complete a vaccination education session.

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says vaccine policies in businesses will make a difference to encourage vaccination and boost immunization rates in Ottawa.

“We see this being required for hospitals, and long-term care, paramedics, but we really encourage all employers to think about a vaccine policy that a very minimum promotes that people are vaccinated,” said Etches on Thursday.

“That (employees) have time off to talk to their health care worker about vaccination, that they have information about frequently asked questions and where they can get vaccinated.”

New data from Ottawa Public Health shows unvaccinated Ottawa residents are more than 20 times greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than fully vaccinated residents.  The health unit says 60 per cent of cases of COVID-19 over the past month have been identified as the COVID-19 Delta variant.

As of Wednesday, 84 per cent of Ottawa residents 12 and older had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 77 per cent are fully vaccinated. 

Dr. Etches wants 90 per cent of Ottawa residents fully vaccinated to protect against the COVID-19 variant.

Etches notes that under provincial regulations, workplaces must have a COVID-19 safety plan for employees and customers.

“So now, vaccination is an additional protection and an additional tool that promotes safety in the workplace,” said Etches.

“So, at a minimum we’re interested in seeing that in the safety plans that workplaces have that also specifically consider promoting vaccination, thinking about in their workplace what can they do to bolster the immunization rates of their employees – both to protect staff and to protect clients.”

Earlier this week, Mayor Jim Watson asked city staff to develop a COVID-19 vaccination policy for all city of Ottawa employees.

Etches says COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for Ottawa Public Health employees.

“Ottawa Public Health has a staff immunization policy already; it covers things like influenza, hepatitis and we are working on that right now to include COVID-19 specific requirements in our staff immunization policy.”

The University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College have all announced COVID-19 vaccination policies for students, staff and faculty returning to campus this fall.

CITY OF OTTAWA POLICY?

City manager Steve Kanellakos says the city of Ottawa is working on a vaccination policy for all municipal employees.

“The City of Ottawa has always encouraged residents to get vaccinated as soon as they can,” said Kanellakos in a statement to Newstalk 580 CFRA.

“Following the Mayor’s letter, the City, in consultation with the City Solicitor, will develop a vaccination policy for employees that is aligned with federal and provincial legislation. The policy will protect the health of our workforce and reduce transmission in the community and will be done in discussions with labour partners, city employees and Ottawa Public Health.”

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