A stricter vaccine mandate for staff, students and volunteers in long-term care homes is on the way, the Ministry of Long-Term Care announced on Friday.
The new mandate means that proof of vaccination must be shown by November 15 unless they have a legitimate medical exemption. If staff do not provide the required documentation by mid-November, they will not be allowed to enter any long-term care facility.
The previous mandate allowed some wiggle room in that staff, students and volunteers could opt to take an education course about the benefits of vaccination. With this new announcement, that option has been removed.
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“We know that long-term care residents have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. As new variants continue to spread, we are seeing a growing number of outbreaks in long-term care homes where the risk to those most vulnerable remains high,” Rod Phillips, Minister of Long-Term Care, said in a press release. “This enhanced suite of measures, including mandatory vaccinations for those working in the homes of long-term care residents, is one more way we will provide them the greatest level of protection possible.”
Additional measures announced include random testing of employees, caregivers and visitors to detect possible breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated. There will also be more inspections into the health and safety at long-term care homes.
As of August 31, less than half of Ontario’s long-term care homes had a staff vaccination rate of 90%. Third doses of COVID-19 vaccine are currently being offered to long-term care residents, with more than 64% having received their booster, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.