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Waterloo Region enacts mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for staff, volunteers

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Waterloo Region announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy on Monday that requires staff to disclose their vaccine status in two weeks.

It says that staff who are not fully vaccinated by Sept. 27 or aren’t willing to disclose whether they are vaccinated will then have to undergo education on the importance of vaccination, as well as enter a rapid testing program.

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“Regional Council cares deeply about the health and safety of our staff, clients and residents,” Regional Chair Karen Redman stated.

“A vaccine is the best defence against COVID-19 and the Delta variant and we’ve seen high uptake of the vaccine across Waterloo Region.”

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The chair says that while the region will expect all employees to be vaccinated or tested, it will not be a stickler with those who are on the road to being fully jabbed.

“Clearly somebody that’s had their first shot may have not gotten around to getting their second shot, so we’ll definitely work with them,” Redman explained.

“But there will be a requirement to participate in rapid antigen testing as well as the education program for people who aren’t fully vaccinated.”

The region says the COVID-19 policy will take effect for all employees as well as students and volunteers.

It says the safety precaution is just another brick in the wall against the virus it is building as it has also installed plexiglass barriers, hand-sanitizing stations and masking protocols and required daily self-screening for staff.

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“Our staff are the greatest asset we have at the Region and we value the critical work each and every employee carries out on a daily basis as we serve this community,” CAO Bruce Lauckner said.

“This policy puts the health and wellbeing of staff first. As we continue to move through a fourth wave of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region, we want to ensure our employees can continue to serve this community safely and effectively.”

It has been close to a month since the City of Toronto announced a similar policy, mandating that all city workers or employees get both COVID-19 vaccine doses, with an exception for those who are “legally entitled to accommodation.”

Redman said the region has taken so long to follow suit as it was making sure it got its plan right.

“It’s not a race,” she said shortly after the plan was announced. “I mean, vaccination is something that regional council has taken very seriously. This is an operational matter that was put forward by staff and supported by council and we want to get it right.”

The policy does not apply to Waterloo Regional Police members as they are not considered employees of the region.

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