TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford will meet with his cabinet tonight to discuss the possibility of making it mandatory for healthcare and education workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, sources tell CTV News Toronto.
The Ford government has previously sidestepped questions about making vaccination mandatory for some frontline workers but it has faced increasing pressure to do so in recent weeks amid a fourth wave of the pandemic that has seen case counts double every nine days.
Last week a range of stakeholders, including the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, all issued statements calling on the Ford government to mandate vaccination for some workers.
Sources also tell CTV News Toronto that Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is pushing for some sort of mandatory vaccination policy for healthcare and education workers behind the scenes.
“If the reports are to be believed Ontario’s doctors applaud the government’s move to mandate vaccines for all healthcare workers. In fact, our organization has been on the record up to four weeks ago calling for full vaccination for health-care workers so that they can protect themselves, their parent their patients and their communities,” Ontario Medical Association President Dr. Adam Kassam told CP24 on Monday afternoon. “We know that vaccines are the best way to control the spread of COVID-19 and are an essential component in protecting our patients, our friends and families.”
Some hospitals have already introduced vaccine policies, including the University Health Network which is now requiring that unvaccinated employees submit a negative rapid test prior to showing up for work.
Kassam, however, said that in mandating vaccination for all healthcare workers the province would be taking a “significant step forward.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory also welcomed the prospect of mandating vaccines for some workers during a press conference earlier on Monday, noting that the city hopes to make an announcement concerning its roughly 35,000 workers later this week.
“I look at it kind of like second-hand smoke. We accepted years ago that we’re not going to interfere with the right of anybody to smoke, people can smoke if they want. But what they don’t have the right to do is to smoke in the presence of other people in public places like that and have those people potentially get sick from second-hand smoke and nobody quarrels with that anymore,” he said. “I think this is the same kind of illness. Yes, of course everybody has rights but there’s also such a thing as well as the collective rights of all the people to be healthy, including the 80 per cent that have gone and got one dose and the 75 per cent that have gotten both doses.”
‘WE ARE NOT DONE WITH COVID YET,’ FORD SAYS
Tonight’s cabinet meetings comes as cases counts continue their upward trend and Ford warns Ontarians that “we are not done with COVID yet” and that the virus “will be something we live with for a while longer.”
Ford made the comment during a speech to delegates at the annual Association of Ontario Municipalities conference on Monday morning.
Ford’s comments come amid a fourth wave of the pandemic that has led to an exponential rise in case counts over the last few weeks.
In fact, Ontario’s science table now estimates that cases are doubling every nine days. The effective reproductive number has also risen to a level not seen since the spring of 2020 with each person who contracts the virus passing it on to an average of 1.44 other people.
“This is a virus that will exploit any opportunity, any weakness in the system to mutate and become even more lethal,” Ford said. “You only need to look south to see what can happen if we let our guards down and how quickly a variant can devastate an unvaccinated population. COVID will be something we live with for a while longer and we must always stay prepared.”
During his speech on Monday, made virtually, Ford lauded Ontario’s vaccine rollout which he said has been “among the most successful anywhere in the world.”
But he said that despite the “incredible progress” Ontario has made, COVID-19 appears to be here for the foreseeable future.
For that reason, he said that his government will continue to make investments in “fortifying” Ontario’s hospital capacity and protecting its schools.
To that end, the Ministry of Education has announced that it is working with public health units to hold a series of vaccination clinics targeted directly at students and education workers.
It says that the clinics can operate before, during or after school hours and can either be on school property or off-site.
As of August 15, more than 69 per cent of eligible youth have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 56 per cent are fully immunized.
“There is much work left to be done, but there is no better team than this one…we can handle whatever comes our way,” Ford promised during his speech.
“So, let’s be hopeful…let’s stay resilient…let’s get through this challenge and on to the next one.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Colin D’Mello