Early on in the pandemic, Premier Doug Ford said he’d follow the advice of scientists in setting policy for the province, using that rationale to support the likes of mask mandates and lockdowns.
In punting on the issue of mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers, Ford has strayed from that path, earning scorn from those very same healthcare organizations. The likes of the Canadian Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) have criticized Ford for his decision.
The province says a mandatory solution would end up causing some workers to quit, be suspended or fired, depleting the workforce in the field at a time when it’s already under stress. Ford maintains that the potential loss of “tens of thousands” of workers outweighs the small number of outbreaks at Ontario’s hospitals.
“Having looked at the evidence, our government has decided to maintain its flexible approach by leaving human resourcing decisions up to individual hospitals.”
Organizations such as the region’s hospitals already have mandates in place, and won’t be reversing course, stressing the importance for maximizing patient safety. The vast majority of healthcare workers in fact support vaccine mandates.
RNAO head Doris Grinspun said she was disappointed with the government stance.
“This decision by Premier Ford is a disgrace and shows a lack of courage to do what’s right for Ontario’s patients and workers. To not implement a province-wide vaccination policy for all health-care workers puts the burden unfairly on employers and imposes a risk of infection on Ontarians receiving health services,” she said in a release.
A mandatory vaccination policy makes sense, as we expect such people to take all precautions when treating patients. The same goes for other frontline workers such as those in long-term care facilities.
Likewise, even those in the hospitality industry face elevated expectations as people decide if they feel safe enough returning to restaurants, bars and theatres. In that vein, we already have vaccination certification requirements that make it mandatory to be fully inoculated before we can return to a number of normal activities.
It would not have been a stretch for Ford to have gone along with mandatory vaccinations in the healthcare sector.
With public expectations admittedly low, Ford earned kudos for his actions early on in the pandemic. For the most part, he let the experts do the talking, acting in accordance with the scientific advice he was given.
Rather than make himself the center of attention, unlike some politicians in other jurisdictions, he surprised many Ontarians by being demure.
That positive image has taken a beating of late in recent months, and last week’s decision doesn’t help. It’s already being seen in some quarters as giving in to anti-vaxxers and other opponents to government mandates related to the pandemic. That reaction’s not surprising given the very small but vocal minority.
With vaccinations on the horizon for children between the ages of 5 and 11, the province would be wise to quash any inkling of anti-vaxxer sentiment. There’s already a longstanding problem, based on lies and misinformation, of some people refusing to have their children inoculated for common childhood maladies. That’s led to a resurgence in the likes of measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and meningitis.
Being opposed to vaccinations is one thing, but many of those in the existing movement are putting their children’s health at risk by making the decisions for them. And it’s not just the unvaccinated at risk. The growing number of unvaccinated people threatens what’s known as herd immunity,
Given that the pandemic has dragged on for so long, most Ontarians are in no mood to humour those who would see it continue.