The upcoming COVID-19 vaccine deadline for public service workers has been extended for those who are taking steps to get immunized.
The province has set a deadline of Nov. 30 for all public service workers to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Failure to meet that deadline will result in workers being placed on unpaid leave.
But on Tuesday, Health Minister Michelle Thompson said that has changed for health-care workers. Now, the deadline will be extended for anyone who has at least one dose, and who plans to get the second.
A provincial spokesperson later confirmed the change applies to all public service workers who fall under the mandate.
"We don't want to penalize people. We want to encourage people to get vaccinated. So if there's a movement toward vaccination and we can support people to do that, we want to do that," Thompson told reporters at Province House.
The vaccination mandate applies to more than 80,000 employees in the province, including those working in hospitals, schools, long-term care, corrections and child care centres.
In an email Tuesday, provincial spokesperson Heather Fairbairn said employees who are partially vaccinated as of Nov. 15, and are "on the path to full vaccination," will get eight more weeks to become fully vaccinated.
Partially vaccinated employees may be subject to temporary health and safety measures during the time they only have one dose, Fairbairn said.
Thompson said the news was brought to health staff within the last week.
She also said there has been an uptick in vaccination rates since the mandatory policy was announced, but did not have numbers on how many unvaccinated health-care workers would have to be laid off as of Nov.30.
The health minister said vaccination status information is still being gathered from employers, and she hoped to share more information by the end of this week.
Thompson has said that vaccination rates among health-care workers are higher than within the general public. As of Tuesday, 78.6 per cent of Nova Scotians were fully vaccinated.
The health department is making contingency plans based on how services will be impacted by the loss of unvaccinated staff, Thompson said. But, she said that's common practice as staffing levels often fluctuate.
"We are hopeful that there will be minimal interruption," Thompson said.
Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 16 recoveries, bringing the active case count to 161.
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