TORONTO — The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) are calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be mandatory for health-care workers.
In a news release, the CMA and CNA stated jointly that in the face of the highly contagious COVID-19 variants and the plateauing of Canada’s vaccination rate, the mandatory vaccination of health-care workers is “an additional measure to protect patients, the health workforce and health-care system capacity.”
“As health providers, we have a fundamental duty of care towards our patients and the public,” CMA president Dr. Ann Collins states in the release. “There is significant evidence that vaccines are safe and effective and as health professionals who are leading the vaccination campaigns, it is the right call and an appropriate step.”
The organizations are also calling on all levels of government and employers to implement strategies to lower barriers to vaccine access, the statement says.
“While vaccines are readily available across Canada, we recognize that the history of inequity within the health-care system impacts trust,” the statement continues. “Therefore, governments and employers must continue to support and address vaccine hesitancy and system barriers to achieving the highest rate of vaccination among the public and health workforce.”
Health-care workers were among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines to protect them and their patients from infection and to prevent outbreaks, but specific data on how many chose to get inoculated is not readily available.
As of Tuesday, 67 per cent of Canada’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment in health-care settings like hospitals and long-term care homes is not a new phenomenon, as many workplaces require doctors, nurses and support staff to be fully immunized against diseases like tetanus and hepatitis B.
In Europe, France has ordered all health-care workers to get vaccinated by mid- September, with Greece and Italy following suit with their own mandates in the face of the Delta variant driving COVID-19 cases up.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters in July that health-care workers have a “constitutional right” to opt out of vaccination, saying he doesn’t “believe in forcing anyone to get a vaccination that doesn’t want it.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also flatly dismissed the idea of mandatory vaccines, going so far as to amend Alberta’s Public Health Act and removing a century-old order that allows the government to force people to be vaccinated.