City staff tops Toronto’s overall vaccination rate with 88 percent employed on full dose

While 88 percent of city employees reporting directly to the city are vaccinated, close to the provincial standard and above the overall city vaccination rate, some divisions are lagging behind.

Nearly 200 parks, forestry and recreation employees have yet to be vaccinated, representing three percent of those who reported their status as required by the city before the deadline.

Another 378 had not yet reported their status. Of those who did report, 179 chose not to disclose their vaccination status. The division has 5,682 active employees, 19 percent of all employees who were asked to report their status.

Other outliers for the division included solid waste management, which employs garbage collectors and others. Almost 30 percent of employees did not report their status before the deadline. Of those who did, 80 percent were fully vaccinated.

Coun. Joe Cressy, who chairs the city’s board of health, says the overall trend is encouraging and hopes that the problem will largely come to employees, not resistance to vaccination.

In a statement, a city spokesman said they expected the number of disclosures to increase as staff returned from vacation and leave, and that managers would approach employees with assistance.

“Right now, it’s labor intensive,” Cressy said of reaching out to those who have not yet reported their status.

“There were no alarm bells that went off.”

He added: “Purely by the numbers, the vaccination rates are staggering across all divisions, across the city.”

He said the city would be in better shape if the general population rate was closer to that of employees. Public Health reported that 70.8 percent of eligible Toronto residents were fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

Another five percent of city employees are partially vaccinated, in line with overall city figures.

Last month, Mayor John Tory announced that all employees would have to disclose their vaccination status by September 13 and provide proof that vaccination began before September 30.

The deadline was later extended to Sept. 17, the city said, “as some staff who do not have regular access to computers need additional time to complete the mandatory disclosure.”

Those who did not disclose their status and are not yet vaccinated will need to undergo mandatory briefings.

Tory said earlier this week that he was “pleased” that the vast majority of employees had already opted to get vaccinated.

City officials previously said they would respect the exemptions allowed by Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

In a policy statement released Wednesday, the Ontario Human Rights Commission outlined what some of those conditions might be, including written medical reasons from a doctor or nurse.

They also made it clear what kinds of requests would not be honored.

“Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. At the same time, the OHRC’s position is that a person who chooses not to be vaccinated based on personal preferences is not entitled to accommodation under the Code, ”the statement said.

Outside agencies, such as the TTC, have been responsible for their own employees, and several, such as the transit commission, have adopted similar vaccine mandates.

TTC’s largest union, ATU Local 113, retorted on September 7, telling workers not to release “private” medical statuses. The TTC has extended the deadline for its employees to disclose until September 30.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto reporter covering city hall and city politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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