December 7 2021 COVID-19 report
Dear Colleagues: Welcome to my Tuesday, December 7 blog during this twenty second month of COVID-19 in Ontario. You can find earlier update reports here, including thematic pieces in Doris’ COVID-19 Blog. And, for the many resources RNAO offers on COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 Portal where you will also find RNAO media hits and releases on the pandemic here. Daily Situational Reports from Ontario’s MOH EOC can be found here. Feel free to share this report and links with anyone interested. Scroll down for policy updates and action alerts, as well as several RNAO webinars this week!
Dear colleagues, starting this week we will be issuing our weekly blog on Tuesdays. Enjoy reading!
This week we share: (1) RNAO welcomes expansion of boosters and says Omicron is the #VaccineInjusticeVariant; (2) Canada needs to support global vaccine equity if we don’t want another Omicron; and (3) RNAO’s continuing media profile – the November 2021 report.
RNAO welcomes expansion of boosters and says Omicron is the #VaccineInjusticeVariant
Toronto, Dec. 3, 2021. The Ontario government’s move to expand eligibility for the COVID-19 booster dose comes at a critical time in the fight against the virus. The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) says it is imperative that individuals 50 and up get the added protection they need in the face of a new variant (Omicron) and the start of winter.
“The reality is that all Ontarians will eventually need a third dose. And, it is crucial that all health-care workers including nurses be fully vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and Ontarians as they continue to engage in the vaccination rollout, care for those who are sick with the virus and patients with other health needs. The functioning of our entire health system is at stake. This virus knows no boundaries so we need to act on all fronts,” says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s CEO.
“We are at a critical juncture in the pandemic. The virus first emerged in Ontario in January 2020 and here we are in December 2021, still in the deep end of the pandemic. Nurses are exhausted and should not have to worry about whether their colleagues are vaccinated,” says Grinspun. “The government’s failure to act on our advice to mandate vaccination for all health-care workers in all sectors has left many hospitals and home-care agencies with the difficult decision to suspend or terminate desperately needed health providers in a bid to protect staff and patients. We implore the government to make vaccination mandatory,” insists Grinspun.
With another winter approaching, the government must urgently address the crisis in nursing human resources. As RNAO wrote in a letter to Premier Doug Ford, the government must take action to “repair the damage and help rebuild the nursing profession. For the sake of Ontarians you must repeal Bill 124. We are calling once again for your immediate action.” This, as RNs continue to leave Ontario for other jurisdictions that offer better opportunities.
Since Omicron’s transmissibility and the severity of illness it causes is still to be determined, RNAO says individuals must continue to exercise careful caution by following all public health guidelines, getting vaccinated and signing up for their booster dose as soon as they are eligible.
RNAO is pleased that children between the ages of 5 and 11 are getting their first shots of the vaccine. However, the association says it is gravely concerning that many teachers remain on the job unvaccinated. According to the figures released by the Toronto District School Board this week, more than 900 teachers who are seeking vaccine exemptions continue to interact with students. “Submitting to regular testing is not the same as being vaccinated. Testing is surveillance. Being fully vaccinated offers an extra layer of protection. That’s why RNAO remains steadfast in its plea that the government also mandate that all teachers and education workers be subject to mandatory vaccination,” says RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth.
Given that the pandemic has turned a new corner with Omicron, RNAO says it is important that all Ontarians who have yet to receive their first or second vaccination do so as soon as possible. “The pandemic is taxing Ontarians, including nurses’ energies to an extreme. The demands on our system are due in large part to people who are not heeding expert advice. The best protection is by rolling up their sleeves,” says Hoffarth.
Grinspun says that “the emergence of the Omicron variant is the result of global vaccine inequity. The only way to stop the virus from mutating is to stop it running rampant among unvaccinated populations in poor and vulnerable countries.” As the World Health Organization’s Director General warned, “if there’s one thing we have learned, it’s that no region, no country, no community and no individual is safe until we are all safe…More than 80 per cent of the world’s vaccines have gone to G20 countries; low-income countries, most of them in Africa, have received just 0.6 per cent of all vaccines.” Grinspun adds “That’s why RNAO is labeling the Omicron variant as the #VaccineInjusticeVariant. If there is no vaccine equity, there is no health for all.”
This failure to provide even first shots to health providers and the population at large in numerous countries around the world must change. Hoffarth says that “at this stage of the pandemic, we have the technological, logistical and economic capacity to provide COVID-19 vaccines universally. What we lack is the political will.” It is imperative that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stay true to his word that where you live should not determine whether you live. “Canada must do its part to help countries with lower rates of vaccination or those that do not have ready access to vaccines. They must be made available to everyone around the world because until everyone is vaccinated, we are all under threat from this insidious virus and its variants,” adds Hoffarth.
South African envoy calls on Canada to support waiver on COVID-19 vaccines
The following is a Nov. 30, 2021 article from Mike Blanchfield and Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press. The original article can be found here. If we don’t want to see more variants such as Omicron, Canada and other rich countries need to address vaccine inequity in the world. In May 2021 RNAO issued an action alert calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure global access.
South Africa's envoy in Ottawa is calling on Canada to support a waiver on patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines to end “vaccine apartheid” as her country copes with the fallout of its discovery of the new Omicron variant.
South African High Commissioner Sibongiseni Dlamini-Mntambo said South Africa and India have drafted a waiver at the World Trade Organization that calls for patents on COVID-19 vaccines that big pharmaceutical companies hold to be suspended to speed up their manufacture and distribution to less developed countries.
“Unfortunately, Canada is one of those countries that have not supported us,” Dlamini-Mntambo said in an interview.
Numerous experts have long predicted that new variants would emerge in less developed countries if the pace of vaccinating their citizens lags behind richer countries.
Dlamini-Mntambo criticized the ban by Canada and other Western countries on travel from southern African countries after scientists from her country discovered the new variant of concern and dutifully reported it to the World Health Organization.
“This really is a knee-jerk reaction. It's irrational, it's illogical. It's very harsh. We do not understand why travellers from South Africa and its neighbouring countries in the southern African region have been banned. Because actually, countries should be applauding South Africa for its sophisticated medical research capabilities,” she said.
South Africa's medical research expertise, she noted, was “honed or refined during the unfortunate HIV-AIDS era. And now, they are proving to be very useful during the COVID-19 era.”
Dlamini-Mntambo said that the emergence of Omicron is rooted in the vaccine inequity that has resulted in low vaccination rates across the Africa continent and less than one-quarter of her country being fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, young children in the West get their first shots and some adults their third.
“If you look at the countries in the West, I mean, they are beginning to talk booster vaccines, they are looking into rolling out vaccines for children while in Africa, we are struggling,” she said.
“We've also now come up with terms like vaccine equity, vaccine hoarding, vaccines apartheid.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh added his voice Tuesday to those calling for a patent waiver, saying Canada should not be protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies.
“Banning flights or stopping travel is not going to help us in a global fight against this pandemic. It really is going to come down to the number 1, most effective tool so far that we have, is getting people vaccinated,” said Singh.
“And to do that Canada has to take a role in pushing for a waiver of those patent vaccine patent protection. And we should not be protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies.”
The vaccine patent waiver request was one of many items that fell by the wayside when the World Trade Organization cancelled this week's long-awaited in-person meeting of trade ministers set for Geneva.
The Omicron outbreak led to an abrupt postponement of the meeting.
Dlamini-Mntambo said she hoped to see it back on the WTO's agenda soon.
Dlamini-Mntambo said South Africa might not have the ability to manufacture its own vaccines, but her country does have formidable research capabilities, which make it an important contributor to the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Why are we being punished?” she asked.
“We may have challenges, for instance, in putting resources into research and what have you. But we have brilliant researchers.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2021.
RNAO’s continuing media profile: The November 2021 report
This month, RNAO spoke to the media about many timely issues, including the expanded booster dose eligibility, the Ontario government’s fall economic statement and most prominently, our call to the premier to immediately #RepealBill124. Our virtual Fall Tour with members also generated lots of media coverage.
Although we’ve made progress in navigating out of this pandemic, it’s far from over. On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization announced a new COVID-19 variant, named Omicron, which was identified by scientists in South Africa. On Nov. 28, Ontario confirmed that there were two cases of the Omicron variant in Ontario, and that number, according to the last report, has increased to 12. While this variant is still new and we wait to learn about the severity of illness it causes, it does have has higher transmissibility. It is imperative we follow public health measures, and we don’t loosen up restrictions any further – including not doing away with vaccine certificates. Masking and effective ventilation must remain top priority given that COVID-19 is airborne.
On Dec. 2, the province announced it is expanding the eligibility for the COVID-19 booster dose. Starting Dec. 13, Ontarians aged 50 and older can schedule their booster shot appointment through the government’s online booking system, as long as it’s been 168 days since their second dose. I told CityNews’s The Sam Laprade Show (Dec. 2) that expanding the eligibility for booster shots is “an excellent idea because we have sufficient vaccines but we also need to push the federal government for vaccine equity globally.” If you are eligible for your COVID-19 booster, please book your appointment. Read RNAO’s response to the announcement.
On Nov. 19, Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages five to 11. Vaccination is the key to getting through this pandemic and I am pleased that we are now able to protect our children. I told CHCH News’s Inside the Story (Nov. 24) that “because we need to do it at a fast speed, all hands-on-deck should be the approach.” For those of you with children in this age range, I encourage you to get them vaccinated as soon as possible.
Bill 124 continues to be a major issue impacting our nursing workforce, and it’s a shame Premier Ford has yet to repeal it. Many nurses are leaving the workforce after facing chronic understaffing made worse by this pandemic combined with this legislation, which caps salary increases at one per cent (well below inflation). This bill is a slap in the face to nurses across Ontario and must be repealed immediately. On Nov. 14, we joined Nursewithsign416 in Toronto to rally against the bill. At the rally, we announced our 30-day countdown for the premier to repeal Bill 124. The deadline is Dec. 14; the clock is ticking, premier.
RNAO also issued a public service announcement to highlight how losing nurses because of this legislation will negatively impact our health-care system. On Nov. 15, we told Zoomer Radio that “Bill 124 is driving nurses away from Ontario by the hundreds, if not thousands.” Nurses are integral to our health system and must be compensated fairly. In Press Progress (Nov. 18), we said “since this premier took over, nurses have not seen any pay increase, just a decrease but we’ve seen workloads increased double and in some cases triple.”
On Nov. 29, RNAO sent an open letter to the premier to share our grave concern for the state of nursing in the province. “Nursing is the central pillar of a well-functioning health system. Enduring the hardships of a 22-month pandemic has turned an existing shortage – thanks to Bill 124 – into an RN workforce crisis.” Nurses aren’t heroes; we are individuals who deserve dignity and respect. If you haven’t already, please sign and share our Action Alert to demand Premier Ford immediately repeal this legislation, and retweet RNAO’s tweets with the daily countdown using #RepealBill124.
RNAO held its annual Fall Tour virtually from Nov. 15-19. RNAO president Morgan Hoffarth and I had the opportunity to speak with RNs, NPs and nursing students from various communities. These visits allow us to connect with RNAO members and shape the association’s next steps in demanding policy changes with government. Many of our members spoke out about their concerns with Bill 124 and the impact of working short-staffed. In Brampton Guardian on Nov. 19, I called the staffing shortages a “calamity” and said the health system is “on the verge of collapsing completely.” In Sarnia Observer (Nov. 18), our president said “(RNAO has) a lot of members and when we all speak out in a focused way, I really, truly believe we have the power to make a significant difference for nursing and health in Ontario.” I want to thank the chapters that hosted these visits and all of the members who attended. I join Morgan in cheering our strong voice – so let’s keep raising it until we are heard.
On Nov. 4, the province released its fall economic statement, which promised to allocate funding to hire 225 nurse practitioners (NP) over three years, beginning with 75 positions in 2022-23. RNAO issued a media release the same day welcoming the “government’s plans to add NPs, and to upskill registered nurses (RN) and registered practical nurses (RPN) to begin the task of building up Ontario’s nursing workforce.” However, more action is needed to address the nursing human resources crisis – and key to that goal is to #RepealBill124. In Queen’s Park Briefing (Nov. 4), I said that this new funding is a good start but that I hope the government will provide 100 NPs per year in long-term care. Read RNAO’s full response to the government’s economic outlook.
This month, RNAO’s media outreach resulted in 143 media hits. We will continue to speak out on important issues and push for government to take action where needed. Visit our COVID-19 press room to stay updated with our media interviews and activities.
POLICY UPDATES FOR ALL TO ACT ON & MUST JOIN EVENTS – OPEN TO ALL
Virtual Clinical BPG Institute
Dec 7, 2021, 1:00pm - 3:30pm
Sign up today for RNAO's virtual Clinical BPG Institute!
The 19th Annual Clinical BPG Institute will be offered via Zoom video-conferencing in fall 2021.
The virtual BPG Clinical Institute has been designed for nurses and other health-care professionals interested in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully introduce and sustain practice change in their organization through the implementation of best practice guidelines. The institute will feature strategies and approaches from the new Leading Change Toolkit™ and focus on creating evidence-based practice cultures within the workplace. The program is offered as a series of five webinars facilitated on a weekly basis. Don't miss out on this powerful opportunity to bring positive change and innovation to your workplace!
For further details, go here.
Best Practice Champions Virtual Workshop - Session 2
Dec 9, 2021, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
The Best Practice Champions Network team has established a new, two-part Best Practice Champions Virtual Workshop to replace the in-person champions workshops. This free, online educational opportunity consists of a brief pre-recorded introductory video, and two live virtual sessions to be completed in sequential order.
The Best Practice Champions Virtual Workshop series will be offered monthly, with Session 1 and Session 2 taking place once a month. This will provide you with ample opportunity to select the live session that best suits your work schedule. This online educational opportunity can be completed individually or as a group.
For further details and registration, go here.
Be Powered for Change: Speak out for NPs
Dec 9, 2021, 4:30pm - 5:30pm
The NPIG Executive is pleased to invite NPIG members to our December nurse practioner (NP) Insider webinar on Dec. 9, 2021, where we will focus on raising our voice as NPs at the annual general meeting 2022 (AGM) and generating ideas for resolutions to submit for AGM.
The December Insider webinar is titled: “Be Powered for Change: Speak out for NPs".
- Generating ideas for resolutions to submit for AGM 2022.
- 30 minutes of brainstorming
- Learn how to submit a resolution
- NPIG members
- Ifrah Ali, RNAO Board Affairs Coordinator, Executive Office
To become an NPIG member, connect with RNAO’s membership team online.
MOH EOC Situational Report
We are posting each day the Daily Situational Reports from Ontario's MOH EOC at RNAO’s website. That way, you can access the Ministry’s guidance at any time.
For a detailed Ontario epidemiological summary from Public Health Ontario, you can go here.
According to the latest Situation Report #569 for December 6, the case count was as follows: 624,384 total, +887 change from yesterday; 10,027 deaths, +3 change from yesterday.
No updates today.
Staying in touch
Keeping in touch and being part of a community helps us get through challenging times. Keep telling us how we, at RNAO, can best support you. Send us your questions, comments, and challenges. Recommend ideas for articles and webinars. Write to me at <email@example.com> and copy to < firstname.lastname@example.org>. RNAO’s Board of Directors and our entire staff want you to know: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!
Thank you for continuing to be there for your community, everywhere and in all roles! Together, in solidarity, we are stronger. Thanks for encouraging your colleagues, their loved ones and your communities to be fully vaccinated. Keep reminding them that COVID-19 is aerosol and that proper ventilation and N95 masking is not just preferred but necessary.
Let’s also be thoughtful and remember Dr. Tedros when he said that “#VaccineEquity is not an act of charity; it’s the best and fastest way to control the pandemic globally, and to reboot the global economy.” Canada has purchased more vaccines than what it needs, while the poorest countries in the world have almost nothing. Like with other challenges we face – systemic discrimination and climate change – we are not safe until everyone is safe. Vaccines for all – literally for all, across the world – must guide policy in the upcoming months. Let’s learn from the 22-month pandemic and take real action to build a better world.
To everyone – THANK YOU! Please take care of yourself and know that RNAO always stands by you!
Here’s one constant throughout the pandemic. The silver lining of COVID-19 has been to come together and work as one people for the good of all. Let’s join efforts to demand that political leaders protect patients, students, and workers – and secure #Vaccines4All.
Doris Grinspun, RN,MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), Dr(hc), FAAN, FCAN, O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO
RECENT BLOG ITEMS:
28 Nov - Omicron edition: Uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty – go here.
28 Nov - The NHS staffing crisis is killing people – and this winter it will be even worse – go here.
28 Nov - A note to Premier Ford: Repeal Bill 124! – go here.
21 Nov - I’m an infectious disease doctor. Yes, I’m vaccinating our 5-year-old against COVID-19. Here is why you should too – go here.
21 Nov - Rich countries only shared 14% of COVID-19 vaccine doses promised to poorer nations – go here.
21 Nov - Nurses gather in Toronto to rally: Recap of #RepealBill124 rally and next steps – go here.
14 Nov - Nurses celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week and call for scope expansion to improve access to the health system – go here.
14 Nov - Congratulations to all NPs during National Nurse Practitioner Week – go here.
14 Nov - Ontario nurses discuss the crisis in the profession during RNAO’s Fall Tour – go here.
14 Nov - Ontario’s RN understaffing crisis: Impact and solution – go here.
6 Nov - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The October 2021 report – go here.
6 Nov - Ontario’s economic statement signals government’s concerns with nursing human resources – go here.
6 Nov - RNAO deeply disappointed with Premier Ford’s decision on mandatory vaccination – go here.
30 Oct - Hospitals ‘bleeding out’ as nursing shortage intensifies – go here.
30 Oct - The Lancet calls for emergency action to tackle climate change, restore biodiversity, and protect health – go here.
24 Oct - Big tech has a vaccine misinformation problem – go here.
24 Oct - RNAO is deeply disappointed with government’s reopening plan – go here.
24 Oct- Misinformation is an urgent threat that prolongs the pandemic and puts people at risk – go here.
17 Oct - Health organizations around the world: Urgent climate action required – go here.
17 Oct - Climate change the new public health emergency – go here.
17 Oct - A crucial moment for global public health: The Glasgow climate conference – go here.
10 Oct - RNAO launches new, evidence-based online implementation toolkit – go here.
10 Oct - Media release: Mandate vaccinations and establish safe zones – go here.
10 Oct - A renewed call: Prime minister, stop the court battle with First Nations children! – go here.
10 Oct - The inherent racism of anti-vaxx movements – go here.
3 Oct - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The September 2021 report – go here.
3 Oct - RNAO commends move to mandate vaccination for long-term care staff; urges for more – go here.
3 Oct - Action Alert – Stop fighting First Nation children in court: Concrete action on Truth & Reconciliation – go here.
We have posted earlier ones in my blog here. I invite you to look.