COVID-19: Should the vaccine be mandatory in Canada?

For some, immunization against COVID-19 is a welcome solution

COVID-19: Should the vaccine be mandatory in Canada?

Canada is the latest country in the world to approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the new coronavirus. The first doses are set to be administered “within days” to priority groups such as medical frontliners, public health experts announced.

“This is a bit of good news, and I think we should take a moment to acknowledge that,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor at Health Canada. “Then we’re all going to get back to work.”

Sharma, who advises the public health agency on regulatory matters, said the vaccine will still have to be monitored despite going through a quick but thorough approval process.

“I would say to Canadians, we’ve authorized it. If it is their turn to get the vaccine, they absolutely should feel comfortable getting that,” she said in a news conference Wednesday.

Read more: COVID-19: Can you force an employee to take the vaccine?

Health Canada gave Pfizer and BioNTech the green light after the agency assessed data from the clinical trials which suggested the tozinameran vaccine has posed no serious health issues thus far.

Across the country, views on whether the vaccine should be made mandatory or optional differ – and some are instead looking to the federal government to call the shots. For 57% of Canadians, the decision rests with the Liberal government to require people to get inoculated.

Read more: Should CEOs be vaccinated before employees?

Meanwhile, a similar percentage (56%) said, as recently as mid-November, that they are willing to get immunized if the Pfizer vaccine becomes available to them by April 2021.

But not everybody welcomes the approval as good news, figures from Leger/ACS revealed:

  • 41% of Canadians question attempts to make the vaccine mandatory
  • 52% of those aged 25 to 34 see mandatory vaccination as a human rights violation
  • 17% refuse vaccination outright

Toronto-based employment lawyer Stephen Wolpert says – in the context of the workplace – employers have no right to compel workers to take any kind of medication or vaccination.

“The COVID-19 vaccine could follow the same rule,” Wolpert told HRD. “However, employers can address the issue in another way – perhaps by stating that an employee cannot return to the office unless they’ve had the vaccine.”

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