In support of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and other leaders of Ontario’s healthcare unions and associations sent a joint letter to the government outlining key areas for consideration. Some of the issues raised included on-site administration of the vaccine, paid sick leave for health care workers, and clear direction on continued infection prevention and control in hospitals as the vaccine rollout takes place.
Read the full letter to the Minister of Health below.
December 24, 2020
Hon. Christine Elliott
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3
RE: Vaccination of Health Care Workers
Dear Minister Elliott,
As the representatives of health care workers and the association of hospital employers in which they work, we recognize the historic importance of the COVID-19 vaccination effort. We are writing to offer our assistance and to provide initial joint recommendations to support this critical public health initiative.
We agree with the government that vaccination must be voluntary. We also understand the government’s initial approach to vaccine distribution, which prioritizes health care workers, long-term care residents and essential caregivers as necessary due to the incremental availability of vaccine supply. We are optimistic that we will swiftly be able to ensure that the vaccine will be comprehensively available to all health care workers who choose to receive it, and not just certain occupational groups within this population.
Given that health care workers are a priority group for early access to the vaccine, there is a critical need for a dedicated education and communication campaign that strongly encourages voluntary health care worker vaccination and we are offering our support and assistance in these efforts. As the trusted representatives and employers of health care workers, we are uniquely positioned in this regard and look forward to receiving additional details from government as to how we can work collaboratively to accomplish this.
To support the effective uptake of the vaccine by health care workers, we encourage government to consider the best methods to ensure that vaccines are easily accessible, including on-site administration, if possible. We understand that similar to other vaccines and medications, only a small number of people may experience temporary side effects of the vaccine. Therefore, we jointly recommend that government support and fund paid sick leave for all vaccinated health care workers in these circumstances in order to remove this potential barrier to vaccine uptake. Furthermore, clear direction on continued infection prevention and control/personal protective equipment measures for vaccinated and unvaccinated health care workers is critical. Finally, for those health care workers not immediately able to access the vaccine, the government should ensure that paid self-isolation leave is available, where necessary, to prevent outbreaks.
President and CEO
Ontario Hospital Association
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
Vice-President, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario
Vicki McKenna, RN
Ontario Nurses’ Association
Director of Health Care
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Helen Angus, Deputy Minister (Health)
General (retired) Rick Hillier, Chair COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Taskforce
Alison Blair, Assistant Deputy Minister, Pandemic Response Division
Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner and Lead—Clinical Guidance and Surveillance Work Stream Catherine Brown, Executive Lead, Ontario Health COVID-19 Working Group
Heather Watt, Chief of Staff, Minister of Health
Laurel Brazill, Director of Stakeholders, Minister of Health