Even ‘a living document’ like a staff vaccination policy can be plagued with concerns.
In line with neighbouring North Simcoe municipalities, Tay council passed a COVID-19 vaccination policy during its regular meeting this week, but not without strong words being shared first from members susceptible to the ongoing viral threat.
The policy applies to staff, listed as all employees of or working for Tay including students, volunteer firefighters and contracted personnel, and non-staff such as volunteers, council-appointed committee members and council.
By November 1, staff are required to provide Tay human resources with either proof of full vaccination or a bona fide reason why not; all identities will be kept confidential.
Staff not fully vaccinated and not providing acceptable reasons will be required to attend mandatory education sessions, which can be done during regular work hours. All unvaccinated staff will be required to use self-administered rapid antigen testing twice per week during off-work hours, and provide results back to human resources.
Coun. Sandy Talbot admitted she was immunocompromised, and had several issues with the policy including the self-administration, educational videos, and other health risks coming from unvaccinated staff.
“A person working next to me might have COVID, I don’t know; (they) may not be vaccinated. That may be detrimental to my health,” said Talbot. “I really think there has to be a timeframe in there.
“If you’re not going to get on the bus like every other employee in this corporation, then you’ve made that decision and you should be put on unpaid leave. I feel really strongly about this,” Talbot added.
CAO Lindsay Barron responded by pointing out that self-administration policies were a directive from the province which the township was following, and felt that the educational components for staff to self-administer rapid tests as well as a 20-minute vaccination course was a reasonable measure for health and safety.
The termination timeframe, however, was a hard line Barron chose not to cross.
“We did work collaboratively with the North Simcoe group on this,” said Barron, “and felt that it was a hard line that -- at this time given our high rates of vaccination throughout North Simcoe -- wasn’t needed.
“There’s also no precedent here. At least at this time, I don’t think we’re prepared to get into legal situations that we don’t know the outcome of,” Barron added, suggesting it could be revisited in the future. “At this point it’s not something that I necessarily want to lead the charge on.”
Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle shared concerns with Talbot, noting that cheaper rapid antigen tests had a reported lower rate of accuracy than more expensive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered by health professionals.
LaChapelle also addressed the educational component regarding vaccination hold-outs.
“Let’s be frank about this,” said LaChapelle. “If they haven’t got it now, you think a video’s going to change their mind?”
Coun. Barry Norris reminded council that after everyone spoke their opinions, “it’s the democratic right of the individual to make that decision.”
Barron referenced the policy as a living document, which many on council latched onto as they agreed it should be revisited monthly, with the option of revising it according to new information from health professionals.
Coun. Paul Raymond called the policy “a good start”, appreciating the effort put into it.
Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Further information including council’s agenda can be found on the Tay township website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca