“By taking additional measures in high-risk settings we will further protect our most vulnerable, safeguard hospital capacity, ensure a safe return to school and keep Ontario running,” Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
Officials announced on Tuesday that employees, contractors, volunteers and students at hospitals as well as home and community care service providers will be covered under the required policies. Post-secondary institutions, retirement homes, women’s shelters, group homes, and licensed home daycares will also be required to enact policies.
Individuals will need to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, a medical reason for not having COVID-19 vaccines, or they will need to complete a COVID-19 vaccine educational session.
For those who do not provide proof of receiving two COVID-19 vaccines, they will be required to participate in “regular” antigen testing. However, it wasn’t immediately clear how often that screening would need to take place.
The rules announced on Tuesday are similar to an order governing COVID-19 requirements at the province’s long-term care homes.
When it comes to education settings, officials said the Ontario Ministry of Education will be bringing forward a vaccination disclosure policy for staff at public and private schools as well as licensed daycares. Antigen testing will also be required.
Some Ontario hospitals like Toronto’s University Health Network previously introduced staff vaccination policies along the same lines as the government’s plans.
The news came amid growing calls from health-care groups and opposition politicians that the government mandate COVID-19 vaccines for workers in high-risk settings like education and health care.
Premier Doug Ford has previously said he won’t make vaccines mandatory in any sector because he considers it a constitutional right not to take the shots.
Ford has personally been fully vaccinated against the virus and regularly encourages Ontario residents to get both doses.
As of Tuesday, 81.6 per cent of Ontario residents who are 12 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose while 73.2 per cent of the same age group have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Third COVID-19 vaccines doses being allowed for vulnerable populations, new doses for those turning 12
The Ontario government announced third COVID-19 vaccines doses will be offered to the highest-risk populations in the province.
There wasn’t a firm date on when those doses would be offered, but as of Tuesday those who received transplants, patients with hematological cancers, people who received an anti-CD20 agent as well as residents in long-term care homes, higher-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder-care lodges would be included.
Meanwhile, for children turning 12 before the end of 2021, they will now be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines beginning on Wednesday.
This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the afternoon.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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