At a Wednesday meeting, Peterborough County councillors unanimously supported a policy that will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all county employees, contractors, volunteers and co-op students, including part-time and temporary staffers — all of whom will be required to provide proof of full vaccination by Oct. 1.
“It’s action by ourselves and others in our area, our across the province and the country will make a significant difference in keeping ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our community safe. It’s a very responsible thing to do,” said Deputy Warden Andy Mitchell, who is mayor of Selwyn Township and chair of the board of health.
Those not fully immunized by Oct. 1 will have until Nov. 1 to get vaccinated and then provide proof they have received two valid doses of an approved vaccine, according to a staff report to council.
After Nov. 1, any remaining individuals who are not fully vaccinated, or do not have an approved medical or creed exemption, will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence for up to 30 days, until proof of compliance with the policy has been submitted, or unless otherwise directed by the chief administrative officer, deputy clerk, deputy treasurer or their designate, the report outlined.
Continued non-compliance of the policy beyond the leave of absence may result in termination of employment for cause.
“We do feel it is our duty to protect those employees that are vaccinated as they are the majority of our staff,” Sheridan Graham, chief administrative officer for the county, told council.
“We do feel it’s important to be a leader in the region. We feel it is a good time to support our other municipalities (who have approved a similar policy).”
Trent Lakes Township Mayor Janet Clarkson said she’s concerned that rural municipalities in the county are “lagging behind the city (of Peterborough) in vaccinations.”
“We’ve tried through signage and different things to get our numbers up. We have pop-up clinics but very rarely are they advertised to the point that people are able to see them in time to be able to do something about it.”
In response, Graham said county staff are working closely with Peterborough Public Health and CAOs in all the townships “to understand the data as well as to use that data as to where those vaccination clinics should be.”
“We continue to work on that and continue to work on those numbers,” Graham said.
Otonabee-South Monaghan Mayor Joe Taylor noted “there’s a number of lower tier (municipalities) watching (Wednesday’s meeting)” because they’re considering following suit and adopting mandatory vaccines for employees.
Several eastern Ontario municipalities, including Hastings County, have moved to usher in the same policy, Graham said.
The City of Peterborough may soon do the same. A proposed policy from city staff, extending to all municipal employees and elected officials, was considered by city council for preliminary approval at a special committee meeting Wednesday night.
The county’s policy also extends to county councillors or council committee and local board members who attend county offices or workplaces. Newly hired employees will need to provide proof of being fully vaccinated as a condition of employment.
Employees who remain unvaccinated due to a substantiated Human Rights Code accommodation request may be required to take additional infection and prevention control measures including providing proof of negative COVID-19 testing as well as self-isolation if exposed to COVID-19.
Contractors who have not complied with the policy may be subject to having their contracts voided and being denied access to facilities and workplaces.
Volunteers and unpaid student co-op employees who have not complied will be denied access to facilities and workplaces unless otherwise directed by the CAO, deputy clerk, deputy treasurer or their designate. Information relating to individuals’ proof of vaccination and/or the reason for exemption will remain in their confidential file.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner