Quebec's Health Ministry is defending its decision to gather the personal information of employees in the province's educational institutions, insisting that having a picture of COVID-19 vaccination coverage among staff is critical to managing the pandemic in high-risk areas.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, has asked school administrators to provide him the full name, date of birth, address, phone number and health insurance card number of staff members — as well as the full names of their parents.
In a statement, the ministry said an increase in COVID-19 cases in schools led it to ask for this data.
They will be sent to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ).
"The information will only be gathered and used by the INSPQ in order to determine the vaccination coverage among staff in schools," the statement read. "The data will be destroyed at the end of the 2021-2022 school year."
Arruda said in an interview Thursday he understands the privacy concerns but he said it's important to understand the situation in high-risk areas, such as schools.
He said public health will try to promote more vaccination in areas where there has been low uptake.
For now, though, he said mandatory vaccination isn't something the province is considering among public educators.
"It's not at all in our short-term plans, or even medium-term plans," he said.
The Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec, which represents about 34,000 members working in CEGEPs, universities as well as private schools and colleges, said earlier it was "shocked" to learn of the ministry's decision.
The federation is worried the data is not being gathered safely and could be compromised.