Ontario is mandating COVID-19 vaccines in high-risk settings and schools and will start offering third shots to vulnerable populations.
Officials say the moves come in response to evolving data around the transmissibility of the Delta variant and based on the recent experiences of other jurisdictions.
On Tuesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore issued a directive mandating hospitals and home and community care service providers to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers, and for ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for paramedics no later than September 7th.
At a minimum, the new policy will require these individuals to provide proof of one of three things:
- Full vaccination against COVID-19; a medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.
- Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing, similar to the vaccination policy requirements currently in place for long-term care homes.
In addition, the Ministry of Education will be rolling out a vaccination disclosure policy for all publicly-funded school board employees, and staff in private schools as well as for all staff in licensed child care settings for the coming school year, with rapid antigen testing requirements for staff who are not immunized against COVID-19.
As students, parents, and teachers prepare for the return to class in September, starting Wednesday the province is expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to anyone turning 12 this year.
The expansion of eligibility comes in light of closely monitored data from Alberta and British Columbia where the vaccine has been offered to youth born in 2009 for several months with no risks identified.
Vaccination policies will also be required for post-secondary institutions, retirement homes, women’s shelters and group homes, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings.
As for third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Ontario will start offering them to transplant recipients, patients with hematological cancers on active treatment for malignant hematologic disorders, recipients of an anti-CD20 agent and residents of high-risk congregate settings including long-term care homes, higher-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care lodges.