The Hospital for Sick Children will require all staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a documented medical or human rights exemption, the hospital announced Thursday.
The move aims to help protect the majority of patients at SickKids who are not currently eligible for vaccination, because they're under the age of 12.
The policies go a step further than required by the Ontario government, which calls for all health-care workers to be vaccinated or routinely tested before coming to work.
The requirement will go into effect Sept. 7 and will also extend to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. It will also extend to learners and contractors.
The right thing to do
Dr. Ronald Cohn, president and CEO of SickKids, said implementing vaccine mandate policies for staff was not the hospital's first choice, nor was it an easy choice to make.
But he said as health-care institutions dedicated to the health of children, it is the right thing to do.
"As a children's hospital taking care of acutely ill children, we are in a unique situation because at any given time about 70 per cent of our patients are below the age of 12 and that's not eligible for vaccinations," Cohn told CBC Toronto.
"Many of those patients are immunocompromised and at even higher risk of getting severe complications from COVID-19," he added.
"If you put that into the context of the significantly higher transmissibility of the delta variant that's currently circulating within the province, we just had to add another layer, a very powerful layer to our bundle of measures of infection prevention and control in order to maximize our ability to to protect our patients."
For those who don't comply after completing vaccine education requirements, the hospital said, "all options will be considered to effectively enforce the policy."
Earlier this week, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced that Ontario will mandate vaccination policies for health-care and education workers.
The directive would not make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory, but those who decline the shots will need to undergo regular antigen testing for the virus. It's similar to one already in place in the province's long-term care homes.
Regarding the announcement by SickKids, Moore said, "We recognize that some organizations, where a vast majority of patients are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, will need to go beyond the minimum standard set by our directive. "
The province's top doctor said he he supports hospital in taking "these necessary measures to protect patient, family and staff safety."