Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health says the effort to vaccinate temporary foreign workers in the agricultural sector has been going well.
“We have for weeks now been systematically going out and vaccinating temporary foreign workers on-site,” says Dr. David Colby. “There’s also a program to get workers vaccinated when they enter the country. So there are two levels of getting them vaccinated.”
“It’s very labour intensive to send a team out to vaccinate at each location, potentially a very small number of individuals. But those efforts continue every week and I think we largely have got that segment completed.”
COVID outbreaks among temporary foreign workers hit Chatham-Kent particularly hard in the early months of the pandemic last year, including an outbreak of more than 100 people at Greenfield Produce in Kent Bridge.
“This is a priority that we’ve had. Some of our largest outbreaks have been in that sector in Chatham-Kent so I think it’s very important that we continue to prioritize that,” says Colby.
Across Ontario more than 1,700 workers got COVID last year with three deaths. Last week in Lambton a man in his 30s from Guatemala passed away from the virus while quarantining in a hotel. Five workers have died in quarantine in Ontario this year, although causes of death haven’t been determined in all cases.
Temporary foreign workers are tested before departing their home country and on arrival in Canada. They’re also offered vaccinations when they arrive at Pearson Airport in Toronto, or can receive them in their destination community.
A two week isolation period is also mandatory.
Colby says “there’s been a very good uptake,” among temporary foreign workers accepting vaccines, with only “some that have refused that, as you would expect.”
“I’m very happy about that and we’ll be looking at second dose boosters later on as well to complete the job,” says Colby.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent