MISSISSAUGA, Ont. Fewer than a dozen nursing homes needed the help of Ontario government staff on Monday when the deadline for workers to receive a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine expired, according to the minister for long-term care.
“We are working closely with the facilities that have contacted us,” Rod Phillips said at a news conference in Mississauga, Ontario.
“There are just under a dozen facilities, most of them in rural communities where there are some challenges, making sure they have the support they need. But this was an important step. “
Ontario Long-Term Care Staff Must Receive First COVID Vaccine to Attend Work
Staff in the province’s 626 long-term homes were required to have their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to go to work Monday, or show proof of a medical exemption.
A full count of workers out of work due to the policy was not immediately available, but the government said 98 percent of workers were given a first chance.
Phillips said the province is working with public health and other partners to ensure the homes are staffed. Phillips also credited the advance notice of the vaccine’s mandate, announced last month, and the work of the operators helped keep the situation under control.
“We have not experienced major issues at this time, but we will continue to work and make sure people are safe,” he said.
“And of course residents and family members can feel much better now, knowing that the vaccination rate level is what it is.”
Ontario Reports 552 New COVID-19 Cases, 3 More Deaths
Monday had initially been set as a deadline for workers to be fully vaccinated against the virus, but the Ministry of Long-Term Care has postponed that date until December 13.
Phillips said it was done to accommodate new guidance on vaccine dose ranges from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which said eight weeks is the “optimal” interval between doses.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna two-dose vaccines have been licensed in Canada to be administered at three and four week intervals, respectively.
NACI’s advice on optimal doses noted that factors such as risk, local transmission, and the need for a second, faster dose should be considered when extending the time between doses.
Phillips said Monday that the extension of the deadline was justified and said the government wanted to make sure that people who received the vaccine could follow the advice of medical experts.
Key Findings as Covid Cases Rise in Ontario
He also noted that only one long-term care home is experiencing an outbreak and many residents have now received booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Opposition politicians said more should be done to support home-based staff.
New Democratic leader Andrea Horwath called for higher wages in the sector to make it easier to replace workers who may be forced to leave if they don’t get vaccinated.
Liberal House leader John Fraser said the progressive Conservative government waited too long to enact the mandate and, as a result, full vaccination coverage has been delayed.
“Now we have a situation where there are some households where, frankly, there is some risk,” Fraser said.
Ontario’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 infections has risen steadily in recent weeks.
The province reported 552 new cases and three deaths from the virus on Monday.
© 2021 The Canadian Press