RNAO commends move to mandate vaccination for long-term care staff and urges the same for all other health and education sectors

Toronto, Oct. 1, 2021. The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) commends and fully supports Minister of Long-Term Care (LTC) Rod Phillips’s announcement on mandatory vaccination for all in-home staff, support workers, students and volunteers in LTC, effective Nov. 15. As RNAO has publicly stated many times, this is a necessary action that will further protect LTC residents and staff from COVID-19 infection caused by unvaccinated health-care workers.

This move from Minister Phillips comes at a time when roughly half of Ontario’s 626 LTC homes (367) have staff immunization levels below 90 per cent. This is an unacceptable rate that places staff and residents at increased risk of being infected by the deadly COVID-19 virus and its highly transmissible Delta variant. RNAO expects this mandate will follow a formal process of proof of full vaccination with a narrow list of medical exemptions aligned with those in the vaccine certificate.

As a next crucial step in Ontario’s fight against COVID-19, RNAO continues to urge Premier Ford and other ministers to extend this mandate and immediately adopt the mandatory asks of nurses: mandatory vaccination for all health-care workers across all sectors, and mandatory vaccination for all teachers and education staff, unless medically exempt. 

“Nurses have said time and time again that the onus should not be on the patients to wonder whether they are at risk of COVID-19 infection when seeking care,” says RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun. “We applaud Minister Phillips for mandating vaccination to protect staff and vulnerable residents in LTC, and urge the premier and Ministers Christine Elliott, Raymond Cho, Stephen Lecce and Jill Dunlop to follow suit in announcing mandatory vaccination for all workers across all settings and sectors, meeting the same Nov. 15 deadline as LTC.”

“A consistent approach for all sectors and settings is imperative to our success in lowering the harm of the Delta variant, as staff move between settings and sectors,” says RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth. “It is not fair to leave it to the CEOs of hospitals, home care agencies or other health organizations to make individual decisions regarding mandating vaccination for their staff.” Hoffarth adds that “with each day that passes without mandatory vaccination for all health-care providers, patients’ health is being compromised.”

RNAO says the time is now to also mandate the same for all education staff in daycares, schools and post-secondary institutions. Formal proof of vaccination, not just an honour system, as has been observed at a number of universities across Ontario, is vital.

“With the temperature cooling down and movement to indoor settings increasing, mandatory vaccination of all staff must happen now to keep students safe and prevent closures – even temporary closures – of any education site,” says Grinspun.