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Health authorities in N.B., N.S., won’t make COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees

Click to play video 'Vaccines for healthcare workers strongly encouraged, but not mandatory' Vaccines for healthcare workers strongly encouraged, but not mandatory
WATCH: Health officials say their employee policies for the COVID-19 vaccine will mirror the ones for flu-shots: they’ll strongly encouraged, but not mandatory. Silas Brown has more – Jan 12, 2021

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory for employees of health authorities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

All three authorities say details are still being worked out, but while they will be strongly recommending that employees get vaccinated for COVID-19, they won’t require it.

“These details are currently being discussed internally and will be shared at an appropriate time. We are, however, very encouraged by the enthusiastic response we’ve received from Horizon employees so far, and can confirm there is already wait list of employees who have expressed interest in receiving the vaccine as early as possible in the weeks and months ahead,” said Maura McKinnon, chief human resource officer for Horizon Health Network.

“Like other vaccinations, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory for Horizon employees — however it is strongly encouraged, and we expect our health care employees to be ambassadors for health and scientific advancements to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

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Read more: Second shots of COVID-19 vaccine doses being administered this weekend in New Brunswick

A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health said that “there is no indication that the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory for health care workers at this time.”

“That could change, of course, but it isn’t the direction we have now” said Carla Adams.

During a New Brunswick COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Dr. Jennifer Russell said it would be up to the health authorities to set their own workplace policies around the vaccine.

She also said it is unlikely the province would make the vaccine mandatory for the general public, but could foresee certain organizations requiring them for some activities such as air travel.

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“For the public anyway, I don’t see mandatory vaccinations being something we would put in place,” Russell said.

“But certainly there would be restrictions on certain types of activities that people will want to participate in.”

Read more: First COVID-19 vaccines given in New Brunswick

The health authorities’ employee policy is in line with the approach to seasonal influenza vaccines which are also not required.

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“As it is for the flu vaccine, the COVID vaccine is not mandatory but strongly recommended,” said Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte in an email.

In New Brunswick, the two regional health authorities have had varying levels of success in ensuring employees get the flu shot. According to numbers from an internal Vitalité document and confirmed by a spokesperson, just 24.9 per cent of employees got the seasonal shot for the 2018-2019 flu season.

Horizon’s current policy is to require those who don’t get a flu shot to wear a mask for the entirety of the flu season. In 2018-2019, 64 per cent of employees got the jab. As of November, 65 per cent of employees have gotten their flu shots for the current season.

Questions remain over how the province will handle the vaccine in schools. Students entering the public school system are required to provide proof of immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, varicella, and meningococcal disease.

Medical and philosophical vaccine exemptions are available.

Read more: N.B. to receive 3,900 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week: health minister

The department of Public Safety did not say if COVID-19 would be added to that list but noted that both vaccines currently approved for use by Health Canada have age limits of 16 and 18.

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“Staff with the Department of Health do keep abreast of developments and will be monitoring for the approval of COVID-19 vaccines for immunizations of children, including those of school age,” said department spokesperson Shawn Berry in a statement.

Federal government releases projected vaccine shipment schedule

On Monday, the federal government released how many vaccines each province is slated to get each week until the end of February. Between Jan. 11 and Feb. 28, Nova Scotia is slated to received 71,550 doses. Of that, 56,550 are the Pfizer vaccine, while 15,000 will come from Moderna.

New Brunswick is scheduled to get 54,600 doses, with 42,900 coming from Pfizer and the remaining 11,700 from Moderna.

The full list can be viewed here.

So far New Brunswick has received 11,175 doses and administered 7,732. Over 3,000 doses are being held as second doses for those who have only received one and 1,862 people have been fully vaccinated.

Nova Scotia has received 13,450 and given out 3,831. The province says 1,076 Nova Scotians have received both doses as of last week.

Click to play video 'Health officials plea New Brunswickers to download COVID Alert app' Health officials plea New Brunswickers to download COVID Alert app
Health officials plea New Brunswickers to download COVID Alert app – Jan 11, 2021