Ottawa

Ontario considering booster shots, long-term care minister says

Ontario's minister of long-term care says the province is strongly considering COVID-19 booster shots for staff and residents of nursing homes to protect them from the pandemic's looming fourth wave, but isn't ready to mandate vaccination.

Looming 4th wave driven by delta variant causing concern for vulnerable seniors

Ontario's minister of long-term care says the province is planning to offer booster shots of a COVID-19 vaccine to residents and employees of long-term care homes. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ontario's minister of long-term care says the province is strongly considering COVID-19 booster shots for staff and residents of nursing homes to protect them from the pandemic's looming fourth wave, but isn't ready to mandate vaccination.

"I think booster shots are going to be an important part of continuing to protect our long-term care residents. I've spoken to our chief medical officer about that a number of times," Rod Phillips told CBC's Ottawa Morning on Friday.

Earlier this week, the Ontario Long Term Care Association called on the government to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all health-care workers. In a statement, the association wrote that a provincewide mandate would be the most effective way of curbing the threat posed by the highly infectious delta variant.

But Phillips said he's not sure that's necessary right now.

"We now have the leading level of vaccination in the country at 91 per cent of our long-term care staff vaccinated. Of course, 99 per cent of residents are vaccinated," he said.

Asked about the recent move by B.C. to make vaccination mandatory for staff and residents of long-term care homes in that province, Phillips said the two provinces can't be compared.

"B.C. is in a different situation than we are. They've currently got about four times the number of outbreaks," he said.

In Ontario, workers in long-term care facilities are required to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status. Those who remain unvaccinated for non-medical reasons must undergo education about the importance of immunization.

But Phillips said changes are coming to Ontario's Long-Term Care Act, likely this fall.

"I think nobody can look at what happened and feel that there was proper accountability or that enforcement couldn't have been better. Accountability, enforcement and transparency will be the focus of that legislation," he said.

Phillips is in Ottawa this week to visit some training programs for personal support workers.

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