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COVID-19: Mandatory staff vaccination policy introduced in Kelowna, but not Vernon

All City of Kelowna staff will need to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 13 as a condition of employment, the city announced on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. File / Global News

The City of Kelowna announced on Friday morning that all city staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 13, but the City of Vernon said it will not follow suit at this time.

Kelowna joins a growing list of municipalities, including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Kamloops, to implement a proof of vaccination policy as a condition of employment.

“Before announcing the policy today, we took some time to talk with staff about the rationale and importance of implementing a COVID-19 vaccination policy,” said city manager Doug Gilchrist.

“It’s an administrative decision to require staff to be vaccinated,” added Kelowna mayor Colin Basran, “but it’s something council and I support as another way we can limit the transmission of the virus among staff and the public.”

Read more: Third COVID shot needed for severely immunocompromised people, B.C. officials say

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The city said in a statement that COVID-19 cases in the Central Okanagan have decreased from their peak in August, but area hospitals continue to see high levels of hospitalizations, critical care cases and fatalities.

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“Employees with a certified medical condition, religious or other protected human rights ground for not being vaccinated may be eligible for accommodation,” the city stated.

Meanwhile, the City of Vernon said it does not have a mandatory vaccination policy for staff.

“The City has and continues to follow all the Orders and directives of the Provincial Health Officer, senior levels of government and WorkSafe BC in its response to the COVID-19 virus,” said city spokesperson Christy Poirer in an email to Global News.

The safety precautions include plexiglass shields, mask mandates, physical distancing indicators, posted safety information and hand-washing stations, she said.

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“Staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and to follow all the guidance and directives of the PHO and the Interior Health Authority,” Poirer added.

The City of Penticton said the public can expect an announcement regarding a workplace vaccination policy next week.

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In Vancouver, all workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 6 or they will not be allowed into the workplace.

The only exceptions will be employees who require an exemption due to a medical or protected legal ground, the city said.

It says the policy is aimed at limiting the impacts of COVID-19 and aligns with the recommendations from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry for large employers to implement vaccine mandates.

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Read more: Trudeau unveils Canada’s international proof-of-vaccination for COVID-19

The cities join a growing list of employers requiring public workers to get immunized, including 30,000 employees in the BC Public Service Agency.

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As of Oct. 12, visitors to long-term care homes were required to show their vaccine card and on Oct. 26, all health-care workers in B.C. and visitors to acute care facilities must also show proof of vaccine, with certain exceptions for palliative and end of life care.

B.C.’s proof of vaccination policy for non-essential businesses and events will require patrons to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, Oct. 24.

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