Teachers, doctors, nurses and other public employees will face vaccination mandates as Prime Minister Doug Ford takes a tougher line in the fight against COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore detailed the sweeping changes for high-risk settings on Tuesday, saying the time has come when the more highly contagious Delta strain fuels a fourth wave of the pandemic and a return to school is fast approaching.

“The Delta variant is highly communicable and experience from other jurisdictions shows that we must remain vigilant as we approach fall,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday, in a nod to worrying waves in the United States and elsewhere. places.

The measures, including booster shots for the most vulnerable, such as those with certain cancers, aim to increase protections for hospital patients, long-term care residents and school children, particularly those who are not yet. eligible for vaccinations.

Moore said that children who turn 12 this year will be immediately eligible to receive injections of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer. So far, only those 12 and older have been cleared for vaccinations in Ontario, but evidence from British Columbia and Alberta shows that no risks were identified in vaccines for 11-year-olds.

Ontario strives to improve vaccination levels that are already among the highest in the world, with 82.3% of eligible residents 12 years and older receiving one injection and 74.3% two doses, but Moore he has said that he would like to reach 90% to achieve “community immunity”.

Pressure from opposition parties, health and business groups such as the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for vaccination mandates has been mounting, along with requests for vaccination certificates to enter businesses. non-essentials like gyms and restaurants.

Ontario reported 348 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the lowest number in nearly a week after five days above 500, but the closely watched seven-day moving average is 473 cases, more than double the 201 from two weeks ago.

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Four new deaths were reported and another 10 adults were admitted to intensive care units with the virus, although hospitalizations remain low and within the capacity of the system.

As the Star first reported last Friday, the province will require doctors, nurses and other personnel “who confront patients” in hospitals, long-term care and home care to receive their vaccinations or provide proof of a medical exemption. . Anyone who cannot be vaccinated or who does not want to will need to get tested for COVID-19 regularly and undergo a vaccine education program.

Teachers and other education workers will face similar protocols. Volunteers, trainees, and contractors are included, as are paramedical services.

The deadline for having vaccination systems is September 7.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he will introduce a “vaccine disclosure policy” for all publicly funded school board employees, private school staff and licensed child care centers for the upcoming school year. .

Similar vaccination policies will be implemented in other settings considered high risk, such as colleges and universities, nursing homes, women’s shelters, group homes, day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, child treatment centers, and services for children with special needs. .

The province also maintains the current pandemic restrictions indefinitely, which means that the capacity restrictions from step three continue.

They include 100-person limits for outdoor social gatherings, 50 percent capacity limits in gyms, distance between tables in restaurants, adequate physical distance in stores, and limits on the number of patrons in theaters, cinemas, museums. , concerts and bingo halls.

Moore said third doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be administered to vulnerable elderly and people with compromised immune systems, such as transplant recipients, patients with hematological cancers in active treatment, residents of nursing homes, nursing homes, to put them in a better situation. position to fight the virus.

For example, evidence shows that immunity levels in vaccinated long-term care residents “drop significantly” after four months, he added.

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Ontario Medical Director of Health Dr. Kieran Moore makes an announcement in Toronto.

Vaccination mandates better be late than never, said liberal leader Steven Del Duca, questioning how the government would ensure that most teachers and education workers are fully vaccinated before classes start in about three weeks.

“This is good news because it is progress,” he added, also calling on the President of the Legislature, Ted Arnott, to order vaccines for all MPPs when the legislature resumes next month as a show of “leadership.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory applauded the policy of the mandate and said it is “the right thing to do.”

Sources told the Star that new long-term care minister Rod Phillips found some nursing homes with staff vaccination rates as low as 60 percent in surprise inspections, leaving residents at risk of infection. Almost 4,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19.

Ford has rejected the push for vaccination certificates for domestic purposes, saying it is better for the federal government to develop them to avoid a mosaic system in the provinces and territories. Last week, before the federal elections were called on September 20, Ottawa announced that a vaccination passport for international travel would be ready this fall.

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief for Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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