Chatham-Kent's top doc 'aghast' over lack of plan to vaccinate migrant workers on arrival

Chatham-Kent's medical officer of health is frustrated there isn't a better plan from upper levels of government around vaccinating temporary foreign workers. 

Dr. David Colby says the sooner the agricultural workers are vaccinated, the better

Chatham-Kent has administered nearly 15,000 COVID-19 shots to around 14,000 people. (Talish Zafar/CBC)

Chatham-Kent's medical officer of health is frustrated there isn't a better plan from upper levels of government to provide COVID-19 vaccines to temporary foreign workers. 

The federal government announced new guidelines earlier this week, intended to protect migrant workers as they arrive in Canada — with many working in the agricultural sector. The government's plans deal with transportation and enhanced quarantine measures.

The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit is currently digesting these plans, Dr. David Colby said Wednesday, but he expressed frustration over a lack of action around vaccines.

"I am aghast that there is no plan to vaccinate these workers as soon as they arrive in Canada, if they have not been vaccinated already," Colby said at a Chatham-Kent Board of Health meeting.

There have been a number of outbreaks involving the population in Chatham-Kent, Colby said, and many more in Windsor-Essex. According to the provincial government, more than 1,780 workers across Ontario tested positive last year. Three workers died in 2020 after contracting the virus.

"The sooner that these workers get vaccinated, the better," Colby said.

 Colby added that he hopes the municipality can accelerate through the vaccination phases to get to the workers ahead of schedule. 

Chatham-Kent has now given a first dose of vaccine to around 14,000 people, including some 75 and older.

Colby said the municipality is leading the province when it comes to vaccinations by population.

"It is a good place to be. And this success rate really reflects the hard, hard work of a large number of people."

Chatham-Kent has 65 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and four outbreaks are ongoing.

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