Colby frustrated no mandatory vaccine required for arriving migrant farm workers

·2 min read

Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health is frustrated the federal government isn’t directing temporary foreign workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 upon entry into Canada.

According to Dr. David Colby, the government has just rolled out a new plan to try and keep foreign workers safe from the virus, but it doesn’t include vaccinations for that group when they arrive in Canada.

The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit is currently digesting these plans, but Colby expressed frustration over a lack of action around vaccines.

“I am aghast that there is no plan to vaccinate these workers as soon as they arrive in Canada if they have not been vaccinated already,” said Colby.

Colby said there had been 45 travel-related COVID-19 cases in the past year among people coming from another country to work in Chatham-Kent, and some of the cases could be migrant farmworkers.

Colby pointed out that there have been many COVID-19 outbreaks among temporary foreign workers in Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex over the past year but mainly because workers moved around between neighbouring jurisdictions. According to the provincial government, more than 1,780 workers across Ontario tested positive last year.

“The sooner that these workers get vaccinated, the better,” said Colby.

While foreign workers are included in Phase 2 of the provincial Covid-19 vaccination plan, Colby is hopeful foreign workers in Chatham-Kent will start to get vaccinated in early April if everything goes according to plan. He added he is unsure of the number of workers who have arrived.

Colby said he is hoping he can accelerate through the vaccination phases to get to the workers ahead of schedule.

As it stands, Chatham-Kent has now given the first dose of vaccine to approximately 14,000 people, including some 75 and older.

“With the upcoming growing season dependent on agricultural workers, it is imperative they are kept safe, so they are able to work,” said Chatham-Kent - Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls. “I appreciate the efforts that the Ministry of Agriculture are making to keep growers and workers both informed.”

As of Friday, March 19, Chatham-Kent Public Health reported 21 new cases and eight recoveries, increasing the active count in the region to 91.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News