OTTAWA: Canada’s most populated provinces said Wednesday said they will not force health care workers to get Covid vaccines, saying mass layoffs of staff who do not get shots would devastate hospitals.
The decisions by the governments of Ontario and Quebec — the provinces hardest hit by the pandemic — were announced separately.
Quebec had originally set a mid-October deadline for its health care workers to be fully vaccinated but pushed it to back November 15 in hopes that more people might come around.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube told a news conference that the relatively few holdouts — about 14,000 people or three percent of health care workers in the province — could now opt instead to get frequent Covid testing.
“We have tried everything to vaccinate the last three percent,” said Dube, adding that it was “incomprehensible” to him why some doctors or nurses were still refusing to be immunized.
“Unfortunately, our health network in our current situation cannot do without these people,” he said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, said that after weighing the impact of “the potential departure of tens of thousands of health care workers” who refused to get immunized against the current “small number of outbreaks” in hospitals in the province, he decided he would not make vaccines mandatory.
Instead, such decisions would be left up to individual hospitals, he said.
At a news conference, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott pointed to impacts of mandatory vaccines in other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia having to cancel surgeries and diagnostic tests after suspending more than 3,000 unvaccinated health care workers.
Ottawa has mandated Covid vaccines for 300,000 federal bureaucrats as well as anyone travelling on planes or trains in the country, but has not said how many federal workers missed its October 30 deadline to show proof of vaccination.
Since Monday, airlines Air Canada and WestJet, and Toronto’s transit agency announced suspensions without pay of more than 1,200 workers in total for failing to get jabs.