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Ontario long-term care homes near 98% vaccination rate among staff, sources say

Facing a deadline of next Monday to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs, 98 per cent of staff in Ontario's long-term care homes have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, CBC News has learned.

Deadline looms on Monday under province's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for long-term care workers

Nearly 98 per cent of people working at long-term care homes in Ontario have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to provincial figures to be released on Friday. Senior government officials provided the data to CBC News in advance of their publication. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Facing an imminent deadline to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs, nearly 98 per cent of people working in Ontario's long-term care homes have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated. 

Figures provided exclusively to CBC News by senior government officials show that 97.5 per cent of staff, volunteers and student trainees working at long term care homes had at least one dose of a vaccine by Oct. 30, when homes were required to report to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. 

The homes also report that 95.3 per cent of their workforce is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with two doses. 

The Ford government has mandated that all long-term care staff in Ontario must show proof they've had at least one dose by next Monday. The province's deadline for long-term care workers to be fully vaccinated is Dec. 13. 

The COVID-19 vaccination mandate was announced in early October, and these new figures suggest the move helped boost the first-dose vaccination rate among staff. It had been 93.7 per cent province-wide at the end of September and 90 per cent at the end of August.

Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips announced a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all nursing home staff, students, trainees and volunteers. Next Monday is the deadline for the 100,000 people working in Ontario's long-term care homes to show proof they've had at least one shot or face losing their jobs. (Steve Russell/The Canadian Press)

The latest home-by-home vaccination rates are due to be released in full on the province's COVID-19 website on Friday morning. Senior government officials briefed CBC News on the data in advance of publishing the figures.

With slightly more than two per cent of the workforce unvaccinated, it means as many as 2,400 of the approximately 100,000 staff in the long-term care sector could face being barred from working on Monday.

Nineteen homes in Ontario are reporting vaccination rates under 90 per cent, the figures show.  

Despite that, the  ministry is confident that resident care will not be compromised in any home by the departure of unvaccinated staff, said a senior provincial official. 

The ministry is working with homes that might have trouble replacing staff, such as those located in rural or remote locations, where recruitment for long-term care work has long been an issue, the official said. 

The first person in Ontario to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was a long-term care worker. Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker, got her first shot on Dec. 14, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

No homes will be given a pass on enforcing Monday's deadline for staff to be vaccinated, but the province will ensure they have the support they need, the official added.   

The Copernicus Lodge long-term care home in Toronto, which let go more than one-third of its staff last month for not getting vaccinated, has replaced the workers who departed and now reports a 100 per cent vaccination rate, according to provincial data. 

Two Etobicoke homes serving people of Ukrainian heritage that had among the lowest staff vaccination rates in the province in September are now reporting 98 per cent (Ivan Franko Home) and 91 per cent (Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre) of staff had at least one shot as of the end of October. 

Although the government has a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for long-term care staff, Premier Doug Ford has rejected calls for such a mandate in the rest of the health-care sector. Some individual hospitals, municipalities and educational institutions are requiring employees to be vaccinated or provide a valid medical exemption.

Around 0.2 per cent of long-term care staff had submitted medical exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine in September, the ministry reported.  

During the first year of the pandemic, COVID-19 claimed the lives of 3,744 long-term care residents in Ontario. In the eight months since March of this year, the COVID-19 death toll among residents totalled 80, a sign of the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign. 

Ontario has not reported any COVID-19-related deaths among the province's 70,000 residents of long-term care since Oct. 20.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.

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