Will vaccine mandates make healthcare workers and teachers quit? That might be the wrong question
2021-09-12 from thestar.com
In less than two weeks, the unvaccinated workers who care for 95-year-old Wanda Oko in her Toronto nursing home won’t be allowed to dine in a restaurant or go to the movies. But their jobs with vulnerable residents will continue uninterrupted, an alarming contradiction for families who watched COVID-19 rampage through the home once before.
Only 64 per cent of staff at Oko’s home are fully immunized against COVID-19, despite an education campaign and an outbreak last year in which 22 residents died. Though Oko and 98 per cent of Ontario long-term-care residents are vaccinated, recent outbreaks have shown the risk of breakthrough infections for seniors and people with underlying medical conditions.
“It feels like we’re a ticking time bomb,” said Mary Oko, Wanda’s daughter.
The provincial government is facing growing criticism for its decision to impose mandates on non-essential spaces but not health-care facilities and schools, a move critics say represents a failure to protect vulnerable people. As of Sept. 22, unvaccinated individuals won’t be allowed in casinos and bingo halls, but they can still work in emergency departments or cancer treatment centres. They can’t enter strip clubs or concert halls, but they can teach a classroom full of elementary schoolchildren who are ineligible for vaccination.
The Ontario government has repeatedly cited concerns about workplace mandates triggering labour shortages, especially in the health-care sector, but many believe the issue is political, and that potential staff losses are a secondary concern to the damage that could be caused by further outbreaks and the burden of a prolonged pandemic.
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