Nine days after a petition opposing mandatory vaccines was introduced in the legislature, Premier Sandy Silver reiterated that the government won’t be backing down.
“The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is no,” he told the house on Nov. 10.
Silver first announced the mandatory vaccine policy on Oct. 15. At the time the government did not officially confirm what options would exist for government employees who chose to remain unvaccinated, but said it would require all staff, volunteers and contractors to receive a first dose by Nov. 30.
A second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine must be administered by Jan. 30.
Since then, Silver has clarified that staff who do not meet that deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.
“We need to take action to increase vaccination rates to keep Yukoners healthy and safe, and that is what the government is doing,” said Silver, adding that the recommendation for the mandatory vaccine is based on advice from the acting Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Previously, CMOH Catherine Elliott has explained that the policy is required in order to boost vaccine numbers, protect members of the public and ensure safe workplaces.
She noted that patients in places such as hospitals and long-term care homes are vulnerable to COVID-19 and cannot choose their caretakers in those situations.
“Whether they want to be vaccinated or not, the choice is the individual’s. Our choices do have consequences, however, and our individual actions have an impact on the health of our entire territory. Our government has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Yukoners, and we take that responsibility extremely seriously,” said Silver.
“I urge individuals who are hesitant about vaccines to speak to a nurse or a doctor about their concerns. The vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness, including death. Vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19 and the fastest way out of this pandemic,” he said.
The Yukon Employees’ Union supported the drive to vaccinate members but opposed disciplinary action against employees who chose not to get vaccinated.
The YEU has launched a grievance opposing the mandate, which Silver noted in his response to the petition. He compared their stance to the Public Service Alliance of Canada which has said that based on their legal resources, “grievors must live with the consequences of refusing to get vaccinated.”
The petition opposing the mandate, signed by over 2,500 individuals, was introduced on Nov. 1 by Yukon Party MLA Patti McLeod, following a recess called in the legislation due to a rowdy crowd of supporters.
Party leader Currie Dixon said he supports vaccination but felt the mandatory policy was too heavy-handed.
On Nov. 10, Silver made it clear he believes the issue is black and white – he said parties should support all of the recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer of Health or endorse attempts to “undermine our public health system.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org