Ontario announced on Friday it will be mandating that all long-term care workers in the province must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Staff including in-home workers, support workers, students and volunteers must be vaccinated by Nov. 15, unless they have a medical exemption. Those who cannot show proof of vaccination by then will not be allowed to enter a home to work.
“We know that long-term care residents have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. As new variants continue to spread, we are seeing a growing numbers of outbreaks in long-term care homes where teh risk to those most vulnerable remains high,” said Minister of Long-Term Care Rod Phillips.
The province had previously required all staff must either be vaccinated or undergo regular testing, as well as taking educational courses on the benefits of getting the vaccine.
Phillips defended that regulation in late August despite calls to make vaccination mandatory, including from the Ontario Long-Term Care Association.
At the time, Phillips called the rules for long-term care in the province to be a “great success.” He noted immunization rates among long-term care staff have risen to more than 90 per cent since the previous rules went into effect.
However, on Friday, Phillips said 367 out of the 626 homes in Ontario have below a 90 per cent staff immunization rate. More concerning, Phillips, said was that 99 homes have a rate below 80 per cent. The full list of immunization rates is here.
The province also said homes will begin randomly testing fully vaccinated residents, staff, caregivers and visitors to “help detect possible breakthrough cases of COVID-19 as early as possible.”
When asked why a full six weeks was given to staff to get vaccinated, Phillips pointed to scheduling issues for those in certain rural areas.
At his weekly COVID-19 pandemic update on Wednesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said cases in long-term care settings have recently been on the rise.
In August, Ontario began to offer all long-term care residents a third dose of the vaccine. As of Sept. 30, 64 per cent of residents had received one.