The Whitehorse vaccine clinic is seen in a file photo. The city has delayed its vaccination mandate until March 20. (Yukon News file)

The Whitehorse vaccine clinic is seen in a file photo. The city has delayed its vaccination mandate until March 20. (Yukon News file)

City delays vaccine mandate

Staff now given until March 20 to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine

The City of Whitehorse is delaying the requirement for staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by one month.

In a Feb. 17 email correspondence, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said an internal bulletin had been sent to city employees stating employees now have until March 20 to get double vaccinated, rather than the initial Feb. 20 deadline.

“This is partly to allow our unvaccinated employees more time to get vaccinated,” Dolphin explained. “The decision was also made due to some pandemic restrictions being lifted both locally and nationally, and due to a very high vaccination rate amongst city employees. Finally, the city always communicated to staff that its mandatory vaccination administrative directive was subject to change, and case counts are continuing to decline across the territory.”

The city announced the requirement for the February deadline on Nov. 26, giving employees more than 12 weeks to get the two doses, with second dose appointments available eight weeks after the first dose is given.

Dolphin said about 98 per cent of the city’s 500 employees have received two doses of the vaccine.

There are no plans to require staff to receive the booster that is now available six months after a second dose. Dolphin said the city follows “full vaccination” status outlined by the office of the chief medical officer of health (CMOH), which has not changed to include the booster, though the booster is strongly recommended.

Dolphin also said changes — such as the deadline — can be made to the policy.

“The policy is flexible and is constantly being evaluated based on many factors,” he said when questioned what might happen if there is a rise in cases. “If there is another rise in cases, the city would look to the CMOH and other large employers to potentially make changes and ensure the safety of the organization.”

Also included in the city’s mandate is a medical accommodation process where an employee can be exempt if they show they’ve been deemed by a medical doctor to need an exemption from the vaccine.

The details for each accommodation will be unique and based on the medical information and particular position the employee has with the city, director of human resources Lindsay Schneider said in November when the policy was announced.

The city made a public announcement about the policy in November, but opted not to make a formal announcement about the deadline change.

As Dolphin explained: “The policy was communicated publicly as it was a major policy direction change for the city, the changing of the implementation dates is not a policy change.”

In the November announcement, Mayor Laura Cabott emphasized the city’s responsibility to protect staff, the public and to keep the city safe.

“As one of the largest employers in the territory, the city has an obligation to protect its workforce, as well as the public that uses our facilities on a daily basis,” she said in November. “The safety of our residents is a top priority as we continue to offer a high level of service during this pandemic.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council