Toronto District School Board to require staff get vaccinated against COVID-19

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TORONTO — Ontario's largest school board will require its staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, going a step further than the province's current plan for education workers.

Trustees for the Toronto District School Board supported the measure unanimously at a Wednesday-night meeting.

"Trustees voted to have TDSB staff develop a procedure which would require all TDSB staff, trustees, and visitors to disclose and provide proof of vaccination status and to be fully vaccinated to help protect the health and safety of both staff and students," a statement from the board reads.

There will be exemptions for those who are legally entitled to accommodations.

The TDSB policy is still under development but the board said that, for now, those who don't get their shots will have to attend an education session on the benefits of vaccination.

It wasn't immediately clear what further consequences would arise for those who refused to get vaccinated and didn't have a valid exemption.

It was also still up for debate whether the TDSB policy will include regular testing -- a cornerstone of the province's plan for unvaccinated education workers.

The government has said educators who choose not to be vaccinated, or who can't get the shots for other reasons, will have to be tested weekly for COVID-19.

The TDSB said its policy -- which it aims to have up and running by the time classes resume on Sept. 9 -- will include deadlines for unvaccinated people to disclose whether they've received their first and second doses.

"The data is clear — being fully vaccinated significantly reduces the risks of the most serious outcomes of COVID-19," TDSB Chair Alexander Brown said in the statement.

"This is an important step to ensure we are making our schools and workplaces as safe as possible for staff and students — particularly younger students who are not eligible to receive the vaccine."

At this point, a COVID-19 vaccine has only been approved for children aged 12 and up, including those who are turning 12 later this year.

The TDSB trustees also voted to send a letter to the local public health agency and the province, urging officials to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of compulsory shots for all eligible students.

Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health for Ontario, has said the province was reviewing possibilities for a student immunization policy, looking at the Immunization of School Pupils Act, which allows exemptions to vaccination for medical or religious reasons.

Eighty-two per cent of Ontario residents aged 12 and older have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75 per cent have received both doses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2021.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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