London

London's draft vaccine policy doesn't apply to councillors, deputy mayor wants a 2nd one that will

The City of London released a draft of its COVID-19 vaccination policy on Friday morning, and soon after, the deputy mayor called for a second one that would apply to members of council.

Draft policy raises questions for Coun. Michael van Holst, who won't release his vaccine status

The City of London's COVID-19 policy, if passed, would require all employees to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

The City of London released a draft of its COVID-19 vaccination policy on Friday morning, and it wasn't long before Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan called for a second policy that would apply to members of council. 

If approved by council, the policy would require all city employees to provide proof they are fully vaccinated by Sept. 29, unless they have a medical exemption. Any employee who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons must submit to regular COVID-19 testing and provide verification of a negative result. 

Employees with no medical exemption and who don't show proof of vaccination will be required to complete an education session about how vaccines work, submit to regular testing and provide proof of a negative test result. 

The draft policy, which can be viewed here, does not apply to councillors. 

However, shortly after the draft was made public, Morgan circulated a motion that if passed by council would call on city administration to create a second and identical policy for council members. 

"When health and safety is concerned, there really should be no difference between a member of staff standing in the building and a member of council," said Morgan. "So I think it's appropriate for this policy to apply to both, and this motion would do that." 

He said he consulted with Dr. Alex Summers, the Middlesex-London Health Unit's associate medical officer of health, before drafting the motion.

What about van Holst?

The move to expand a vaccination mandate to council members raises questions for Ward 1 Coun. Michael van Holst. 

All members of London city council have confirmed to CBC News that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the exception or van Holst, who has refused to disclose his vaccination status, citing privacy reasons.

In an email to CBC News on Friday, van Holst said he will not support the city's vaccine policy or Morgan's motion.

"As a city and as a council, we are crossing a line to assume power over others that will affect their privacy and freedom potentially long into the future," he said.

"I don't consider the popular beliefs about herd immunity, PCR testing, and vaccine efficacy to have been adequately debated scientifically. I see these extreme policies as unjustified and will not support either."

2nd policy idea to go before committee

Morgan's motion will come before Monday's meeting of the city's corporate services committee.

Van Holst has drafted a letter to the committee that challenges the science behind vaccine mandates and questions whether a policy could leave the city open to legal action.

Chief medical officers of health at the national, provincial and local health board level have all recommended vaccinations for everyone eligible to receive them as the best way to limit the spread of COVID-19, which as of Friday has killed more than 26,800 Canadians. 

In its preamble, the draft policy says the city has an obligation under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act  to take steps to protect workers. It also points to the higher transmission rate associated with the COVID-19 delta variant.

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