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Southwest Ontario health units implement joint vaccine mandate for kids’ 12+ organized sports

Three Southwest Ontario health units have joined forces for a new vaccine mandate that will require proof of vaccination for everyone 12 and up participating in organized sports.

The announcement was made Wednesday, in a joint press conference between Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH), the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), and Southwestern Public Health (SWPH), and will apply to all those participating in sports or entering the recreational facilities.

The change will apply to the City of London and Middlesex, Elgin, Huron, Perth and Oxford counties starting Oct. 31.

During the announcement, Dr. Miriam Klassen, medical officer of health for HPPH, said the letter of instruction detailing the announcement is an extension of the province’s Reopening Ontario Act.

“In addition to players, the provisions of the letters of instruction will also apply to coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators age 12 and older,” Klassen told reporters.

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Read more: Federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate: Here’s what we know, what we don’t

That the decision to extend the proof of vaccination requirement was made because sport and fitness activities can create opportunities for COVID-19 to spread more easily, the statement from the health units said.

“Indoor sports increase the risk of spreading COVID-19,” says Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health with the MLHU.

“We have seen outbreaks in these settings across Ontario, and immunization is the solution if we want sports to continue.”

Mackie said this new change will likely apply to thousands of people, but most within that age group are already vaccinated.

Of those fully vaccinated between the ages of 12 and 17, MLHU is reporting 81.7 per cent, whereas in SWPH it’s 67.9 per cent, while HPPH is reporting 71.5 of those eligible under 18 are fully vaccinated.

Read more: Some Ontario health units tighten COVID-19 immunization rules for indoor youth sports

When asked why the change was not made when the school year started, before school-based sports began, Mackie said they made this recommendation back in August.

“Many schools and school boards in the area have already put this in place,” Mackie said

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“Although the province did leave the 12- to 17-year-old group and some coaches out of the regulation, they certainly have encouraged local medical officers of health to include those populations where we deem it appropriate.”

The three health units continue to report new COVID-19 infections, particularly among people who are unvaccinated, including those under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.

“Organized sports are community events — we need to balance protecting our community, while finding ways to safely enjoy the activities we are passionate about,” says Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health at SWPH.

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