It’s getting down to the crunch for New Brunswick government employees to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave.
The province has set a deadline of Nov. 19 for workers to be fully vaccinated. Workers include school staff and volunteers, early childhood and child care providers, health and long-term care workers, among others.
Figures obtained by Global News suggest thousands of health and long-term care workers could be off the job next month without a sharp rise in vaccinations.
Horizon Health Network said, as of Wednesday, 85.56 per cent of its 13,000 health-care workers have been fully vaccinated while another 1.95 per cent have had one dose. That leaves 12.49 per cent – roughly 1,623 workers – who have not been vaccinated at all.
Vitalité Health Network said 83 per cent of its 8,000 health-care workers are fully vaccinated, with another four per cent having had one shot. Thirteen per cent have not been vaccinated, which translates to 1,040 workers.
When added together, the single-dose and unvaccinated numbers show more than 3,000 health network workers who are not fully vaccinated. With the deadline less than a month away, those seeking a first dose would need to get it in the next couple of days to allow for the necessary waiting period between the two shots, or risk being placed on leave.
Long-term care is governed by the Department of Social Development.
Minister Bruce Fitch said the vaccination rate among long-term care workers was at around 60 per cent in July, but has risen steadily since.
Still, he said there are 300-700 workers who are not fully vaccinated, “depending on who you include in the numbers.”
Fitch said his department is working on contingency plans to deal with possible staffing issues.
“We’ve seen things such as Red Cross hiring additional people,” Fitch said. “There’s a number of different (contingencies) and some are obvious. (I) hope we don’t get to the point where, again, we have to ask people to come and pick up their loved ones. That would be the worst-case scenario.”
Fitch said there is no appetite to extend the deadline despite at least one request to do so.
“We need to have everyone vaccinated and that date is almost a month away, or just about a month away,” Fitch said. “And people have time to get their vaccination.”