A growing number of countries are making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health care workers, and there are growing calls for Ontario to follow suit.
France and Greece are two of the latest European countries to bring in rules that will ensure all health and long-term care workers are vaccinated, or otherwise face penalties.
There are now growing calls from health experts for similar mandates in Ontario.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch took to social media on Monday night to say that the new rules in France and Greece make sense.
“You can’t put the most vulnerable at risk,” said Bogoch in a tweet.
Dr. Fisman, professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, also tweeted his support for the policy.
“Long past time for this in Canada,” said Fisman. “There’s no reason for health care workers to remain unvaccinated.”
“If you’ve signed up to care for people, you can’t also voluntarily serve as a COVID-vector.”
In Ontario, the provincial government has semi-required long-term care workers to get vaccinated. Workers don’t need to get a jab if they have a documented medical reason – they can also opt to take an educational course on vaccines, which would allow them to continue to work without having received a shot.
An op-ed published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine supports the idea of mandating vaccines for health care workers.
The doctors who wrote the article argue that the case for making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory is much greater than the case for mandatory influenza vaccines. The morbidity and mortality rate of COVID-19 significantly exceeds that of the flu, and COVID-19 vaccines are much more effective than flu shots.
“We believe that there is an extra onus on health care workers to protect themselves from (COVID-19) in order to protect patients,” reads the article.
“Health care workers routinely tend to the elderly, ill, and vulnerable, in whom infection is more likely to be deadly. We cannot rely on patients being vaccinated to prevent nosocomial transmission because some patients cannot get the vaccine, some will decline, and the vaccine may not be effective in immunocompromised patients.”
Some hospitals – including some in Ontario – began mandating flu shots for health care workers nearly 15 years ago. Some health care workers unions in the province have fought the influenza vaccine mandate.
Many recent outbreaks in the Region of Waterloo are being traced back to unvaccinated workers in vulnerable settings. Half of the staff in five long-term outbreaks in the last month were found to be unvaccinated.
Waterloo has seen a recent surge of cases due to the more transmissible Delta variant which forced the region to stay in Step 1 of Ontario’s reopening plan more than a week longer than the rest of the province.
There has been no word yet from the Ford government that any such policy to make vaccines mandatory is being discussed for Ontario.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday ordered all French health care workers to get virus vaccine shots by Sept. 15. Those who don’t get vaccinated by Sept. 15 will face potential sanctions or fines, he said.
The new measures are the latest attempt of the country to get ahead of a surging Delta variant that has set off another wave of the pandemic in the U.K.
“The equation is simple. The more we vaccinate, the less space we leave this virus to circulate,” said Macron.
Greece announced Monday that health care workers will be suspended if they refuse to get vaccinated.
Italy was among the first countries to make a similar policy in April. Workers in that country face a transfer off of the front lines or suspension without pay if they do not comply.
There are some ongoing constitutional challenges to the rules in Europe but none have stuck as of yet.
With files from the Associated Press