Chatham-Kent to debate mandatory vaccines for council and volunteers

·3 min read

Council will review a COVID vaccine policy for their members at a meeting next week.

This after a 15-3 vote allowing for the creation of such a proposal following a motion from Councillor Joe Faas. While the exact details will be presented early next month, one main expected impact is preventing any unvaccinated council member or committee volunteer from attending in-person meetings.

“I know that we’ve been encouraging all citizens of Chatham-Kent to be vaccinated. We’re encouraging employers to vaccinate their employees. And I feel that it is our part to lead by example, that we’re willing to do that so we can encourage others to do it,” says Faas.

Fellow Ward 4 Councillor Jamie McGrail agreed with Faas, saying “as councillors we need to lead.”

Thamesville’s Steve Pinsonneault finally revealed he is fully vaccinated and did so to continue his work as a first responder with the Thamesville Fire Department. “I made the choice to vaccinate as soon as it was available and I believe it was the right choice.”

But, “at the end of the day it was my choice to do it. I can’t support forcing anybody to get vaccinated who believes it’s not right for them… In my opinion this should remain a choice,” says Pinsonneault.

He also had concerns over a second part of Faas’ motion which called for a policy for all citizen volunteers of committees and local boards. Pinsonneault says a lot of good volunteers could be lost if a COVID shot becomes mandatory.

Staff estimated around 50-75 volunteers currently work in these roles. It’s not yet known what the vaccine rate among them would be and how many could be lost.

Councillors Mark Authier, while noting he is fully vaccinated, says he’s “not about to tell somebody that they need to get their shots. If they don’t want to put something in their body I’m not the one that’s going to make them.”

And Councillor Amy Finn says she’s “not an anti-vaxxer. I do believe that people have a choice… I can’t approve any of this.”

Councillor Melissa Harrigan concluded the discussion and spoke strongly in support of a vaccine policy. “We are still sitting in a global pandemic. We are still in a community that is having one of the highest rates of COVID case count per population and one of the lowest vaccination rates per population.”

“Regardless of how some people are framing this, this is not something that we are imposing on people. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is still a personal choice... What this policy is doing is protecting those volunteers who want to continue giving their time without having fear of being in a situation where their homes could be implicated."

A policy for the approximately 2,000 municipal employees, including the police force, library and public health, will also be discussed at next week’s council meeting. There’s expected to be some differences between that administrative policy and the one for council and volunteers.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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