The province has been offering the COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers for a few months now, but not all are getting in line to get the jab.
“A lot of people obviously worried… ‘am I a Guinea pig for what’s happening after?'” said Jeff Begley, president of the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN), the largest union representing workers in health and social services.
Begley says that lack of information and accessibility to the vaccine were also issues at play.
“We received the figures on vaccination first time at the end of the month of March and we, too, were somewhat concerned, because obviously this is also a health and safety issue for our members,” Begley said.
But Begley says things started to improve in the past few weeks.
“Because we’ve increased accessibility, we’re answering their questions that they can have about the vaccine and I think the message is getting out,” Begley explained.
A ministerial decree was also issued by Quebec’s health ministry on April 9, stating that workers in certain sectors will have to show their employer proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Failing to provide proof means employees will have to get tested three times a week.
If the employee refuses to get tested, they can be transferred to another position that doesn’t deal with patients.
If the employee refuses the alternate position or the employer can’t find a spot for them, they are suspended without pay.
“It’s probably unnecessary, the coercive part,” Begley said.
As of last week, the main regional health authorities in Montreal are reporting they have vaccinated more than half of their employees.
- The CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal says it has vaccinated about 65 per cent of its employees.
- The CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal is at 61per cent.
- The CIUSSS du Nord-De-L’île-De-Montréal has vaccinated 58.6 per cent of its employees.
- The CIUSSS West-Central has vaccinated 11,779 employees.
- The West Island CIUSSS had vaccinated 14, 688 employees as of April 21st.
“There has been quite an improvement over the last two weeks since we put that measure in place, vaccination versus testing,” said Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé.
“I will (be) pleased when we get above 80 per cent.”
Dr. Don Sheppard, director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity, says, “It’s absolutely critical that health-care workers get vaccinated.”
Dr. Sheppard says the vaccine protects the employees who are at the highest risk of getting COVID-19, as well as patients.
He says he understands why people have doubts, but says the time to get the shot is now.
“The short-term and medium-term consequences are now known and they are pretty darn safe,” Sheppard said.
Dubé says the same decree will apply to private CHSLDs in the next few weeks.