Ontario’s health minister says getting a coronavirus vaccine won’t be mandatory, but those who don’t receive a shot could face restrictions.
Christine Elliott made the remarks during an update on the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans on Monday.
“We can’t force anybody to take the vaccine but I agree with the premier — we really encourage everyone who is able to, to have the vaccination,” Elliott said.
“There may be some restrictions in terms of travel or other restrictions that may arise as a result of not having a vaccination, but that’s going to be up to the person themselves to make that decision on the basis of what’s most important to them. But we do wish everyone to receive the vaccination.”
The health minister made the comment in response to a reporter’s question as to whether or not employers, schools, or long-term care homes could be allowed to ask people for proof of vaccination.
“Constitutionally, I don’t think we can force every single person to take it and I just don’t believe in forcing people to take this,” Premier Doug Ford said.
“What I do believe (is) encouraging everyone, everyone possible out there to get a vaccination shot. It’s going to protect all of us but it’s also going to get the economy moving forward. It’s going to protect our health-care system. It’s going to protect our education system.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada could start receiving doses of the Pfizer vaccine as early as next week — pending Health Canada approval — with up to 249,000 coming by the end of the year.
Previously, the government had indicated it expected doses to start arriving in January.
Health Canada is currently reviewing potential vaccines from other companies as well.
Last week, Ontario chief medical officer Dr. David Williams also commented on the possibility of restrictions for those who don’t receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Williams said while no one will be forced to get inoculated, if individuals don’t get a vaccine, they may not be allowed into certain settings without some sort of added protection.
“So what may be mandatory is proof of immunization or vaccination with a proper product in order to have latitude and freedom to move around in certain — like to access into long-term care facilities, or the hospital and different things without wearing … personal protective equipment,” he said.
“Same with school attendance. It may be much like our other vaccines. We haven’t gone there yet, but we would make it mandatory for access in, and sometimes being excluded, if there’s a risk or a hazard going on.”
Williams said vaccines have been proven historically “to be the best thing we have.”
The province provided more details about its vaccination roll-out plan on Monday, saying the first phase of the plan will see vulnerable seniors, their caregivers, and health-care workers among the first to receive the shot.
Ford says in addition to those groups, adults in Indigenous communities, retirement homes, and recipients of chronic home health care will also be priority groups.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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