Premier Sandy Silver announced that the deadline for government employees to get vaccinated is being extended at a COVID-19 update on Nov. 3.
The government announced on Oct. 15 that the government would require vaccination among its employees by a deadline of Nov. 30. On Wednesday Silver said that the deadline has changed based on new public health advice.
Government employees will now be required to have a first vaccine dose by Nov. 30 and a second vaccine dose by Jan. 30. This is to allow for eight weeks between doses based on the latest recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. He said the recent petition opposing the policy did not factor into the decision.
Silver said details are still being worked out on the policy, but he reiterated that “vaccination will be required.”
Unions, including Yukon Employees’ Union, have asked for flexible policies to be implemented that would allow alternatives to vaccination, including rapid testing or remote work arrangements.
Asked specifically if employees will be placed on unpaid leave if they do not get vaccinated, Silver said exceptions will only be permitted for legitimate medical reasons.
“I think the big question about whether there’s an alternative to vaccinations basically, and whether testing is going to be the alternative, at this time the recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer of Health is no. That’s the salient point for today,” Silver said.
Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott said that 146 people got their vaccine in the last week of October.
“Thank you, from myself and from all of us working to prevent the spread of COVID and keep people safe and healthy,” she said.
The mandatory vaccine policy also extends to accessing non-essential services such as restaurants and gyms in the territory. Patrons of these establishments, which do not include essential services such as libraries and grocery stores, will be required to show proof of vaccination.
On Nov. 3, Silver said the government will be releasing a Yukon-specific app with a QR-code reader that will be able to read vaccine credentials.
He said the government is working with businesses on the plan to implement the requirements, but the model is based on the current system being used in British Columbia.
“We are in the process of finalizing the list of settings that will require proof of vaccination and we’ll share them as soon as possible,” he said.
The deadline for that policy will also shift to Nov. 30 for first dose and Jan. 30 in order to be vaccinated.
Elliott also addressed the safety of children in her update. Right now elementary school-aged children do not qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine but the vaccine is going through the regulatory process with Health Canada.
Ten school exposure notifications were released in October and a new outbreak at Whitehorse Elementary School affecting three classes and one bus was sent out on Nov. 2.
“We know that having kids in school is better for their mental health and well-being as well as for their learning,” she said, adding that children are eligible for the flu vaccine.
“We offer vaccines when they’re effective and safe,” she said. “Once the vaccine has gone through the regulatory process with Health Canada and we have the guidance we will be ready – and we are ready – to deliver those childhood vaccines.”
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