On August 15, the average Canadian in the midst of the fourth wave of an unprecedented pandemic had more put on their plates, in the form of a hastily- called 44th federal election.
At the start of the electoral race, vaccination mandates did not take pride of place, and the passage of time has certainly shown that they have been more divisive than effective, with the parties sniping at each other.
In consonance with the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy we have historically seen displayed on many businesses, many employers are now making it absolutely clear to their vaccine hesitant staff that “No Vaccine ” can and will equate to “No Jobs.” Without fear, from the air to the healthcare, employers are letting staff know that it is imperative to be vaccinated in order to remain on the roster.
By October 30, all employees of Air Canada, the nation’s largest airline will be required to disclose their vaccination status. In the absence of a valid reason for not being vaccinated, such as a medical exemption, employees will face consequences, up to and including unpaid leave or termination.
According to legal experts, the decision not to offer rapid testing as an alternative for employees who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 sets a tough new precedent that other companies may emulate, experts say.
In fact, such a move is being regarded as a true vaccine mandate. According to Toronto- based employment lawyer Chantel Goldsmith, companies that offer their unvaccinated employees wiggle room in the form of testing are not really making vaccination a condition of employment at all.
On the healthcare scene, health officials in British Columbia have announced that COVID-19 vaccination will soon be mandatory for anyone working in a health-care facility across the province.
Come October 26, the requirements will be in effect, and is applicable to everyone who works in home and community care locations, including client homes.
Unvaccinated workers in any long-term care or health-care facility will be placed on unpaid leave.
In Toronto, the University Health Network whose hospitals include Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret has confirmed that any employees who decide not to get vaccinated by the end of October will be terminated.
As of September 7, all employees, staff, contractors, students, volunteers and ambulance services at hospitals and in-home and community care services were required to show proof of vaccination or a medical reason for not being vaccinated. Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination with both doses will have to take regular antigen COVID-19 tests, as well as being required to complete an educational session.
On the issue of education as a retired professional healthcare worker, I strongly advocate for a more targeted approach. I wonder if the government has the hunch that the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers will eventually lead to a staffing crunch. Vaccine hesitancy is described by the World Health Organization using three “C” themes : confidence, complacency and convenience, all of which are of prime importance.
There are too many Canadians whose hesitancy is to a great extent linked to their lack of trust in government and health officials telling them that vaccines are safe and effective.
Let us not forget the reaction of both the government and health officials regarding the collection of race-based data especially for Blacks.
At the height of the pandemic essential workers were asked to work without proper protection PPEs, proper supports, and at times without sick days.
At the first stage of the rollout, it was egregious that they were not initially considered, and suddenly they are prioritized and told to take the vaccine and all will be well. Complacency is not much of an issue.
However, convenience represents the realistic barriers that might stop people from getting a vaccine, especially those who are reluctant to begin with.
Conclusively, evidence clearly shows that vaccine hesitancy is nuanced, and filtered through highly individual experiences and values, with racialized communities being more often singled out as being “hesitant”.
People are more likely to be encouraged by positive, rather than fear-based, messaging. Employers are making it plain and clear: Don’t want to get the vaccine? Find somewhere else to work. You decide.
Aleuta continua—- The struggle continues.