Is it time to get rid of vaccine mandates in healthcare?

Reverberations from COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact labour shortages in sector

Is it time to get rid of vaccine mandates in healthcare?

Are COVID-19 vaccine mandates contributing to the staffing crisis in health care?

As of Jan. 1, at least two hospitals in Simcoe County have publicly changed their COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy for new hires as a condition of employment, according to iHeartRADIO.

And some experts believe it's a good step.

"We're just sort of still in this cloud or fog of not wanting to look at the evidence that emerged quite quickly," said Rafael Gomez, director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto.

Gomez said current policies no longer reflect what science tells us about COVID-19 and the efficacy of vaccines.

Toll of shortages in healthcare sector

Worker shortage in Ontario’s healthcare sector has been a long-standing issue. In the spring of 2023, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) revealed Ontario will experience a shortfall of 33,000 nurses and PSWs by 2028 and must spend $21 billion more to meet its expansion targets, said the report.

Ontario’s hospital unions have been sounding the alarm over the staffing crisis reaching its breaking point. Last month, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, affiliated with Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), highlighted the toll understaffing exacts on its members’ mental health, spanning registered practical nurses, personal support workers, and clerical staff, said iHeartRADIO.

The gravity of the situation manifested in a recent rally outside Toronto’s Sheraton Centre, where hundreds of workers and union leaders voiced their concerns.

Vaccine mandates for healthcare workers

According to Public Health Canada guidelines, individuals are advised to staying current with vaccines every six months following a prior booster shot or illness. However, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, along with Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital, told CTV News last week that their policy requires only two initial vaccine doses, per Ministry of Health guidelines.

Mariette Brennan, an associate law professor at Lakehead University, advocates for ongoing evaluation of vaccine mandates, emphasizing the dynamic nature of viral variants and vaccine efficacy. She contends that rigid mandates risk excluding valuable workers.

“Simply because we have new variants that come out that change the efficacy of the vaccine,” Brennan said in the iHeartRADIO article. “It doesn’t really serve the purpose, so what we end up doing is denying good workers.”

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) recently revised its policy to mandate booster doses alongside initial vaccinations. CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun expressed disappointment over RVH and GBGH’s decision to remove their vaccine mandates, emphasizing the importance of robust protection amidst a persistently heightened COVID-19 risk.

“The solution is not to lower the protection for themselves and the patients, but to attract and retain more staff, with increased funding and supports,” she said in the iHeartRADIO article.

Grinspun stressed the need for hospitals to prioritize staff well-being through competitive compensation, manageable workloads, and career development support, as retention remains pivotal amidst staffing challenges.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment below.

Recent articles & video

Western province announces minimum wage boost

Immigration streams exploited by low-wage employers: AFL

Report: Canadian workers with disabilities outline challenges at work

Experts call for standardized approach to training on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Most Read Articles

CRA reviewing benefits of 200,000 Canadians

Human Rights Tribunal awards highest damages ever for workplace sexual harassment

Western province announces minimum wage boost