SD&G approves mandatory vaccination policy

United Counties of SD&G council votes on a mandatory vaccination policy for county employees and others during a special meeting on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. Employees will have to show written proof or full or partial vaccination by Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (SD&G/YouTube via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – United Counties of SD&G employees and others in the county work space have to show proof of vaccination or an exemption by Friday (Oct. 15) or face consequences.

County council held a special meeting Friday (Oct. 8) where it passed its vaccination policy.

The policy covers all workers regardless of employment status, students, council members, committee and board members and volunteers. They will have to show written proof of full or partial vaccination by Friday (Oct. 15) and be fully vaccinated by Nov. 26.

Exemptions will be allowed under grounds protected in the Ontario Human Rights Code based on medical or religious beliefs. Those not vaccinated will have to undergo regular testing, paid for by the county until Nov. 26.

Those who don’t abide by the policy will be able to request vacation leave or an unpaid leave of absence in the short term and could ultimately face termination over the long haul.

Unlike the City of Cornwall’s broad requirement for contractors to be vaccinated, county CAO Tim Simpson told council they are “staying away from (it) at this point” and will decide on each contractor based on risk.

“We’re going to work with them (external contractors) and assess them on an individual basis depending on what they’re doing, whether or not they’re having contact with staff or the public and then go from there in terms of vaccination or PPE or things like that,” Simpson said.

Coun. Stephanie Jaworski (South Glengarry) liked the “aggressive timelines,” especially with the spread of the Delta variant in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and a policy based on the “broad consensus of the science.”

Talking about whether volunteers should be vaccinated, Warden Allan Armstrong (North Dundas) said it would be a “recipe for disaster” is the county has unvaxxed volunteers in close quarters with inoculated workers.

While no numbers were available for council on rates of vaccination, Simpson says they are “very, very high” among county workers.

The CAO adds that the policy was shared with staff weeks ahead of Friday’s meeting and the feedback was “overwhelmingly positive…they welcome it.” However, he did hear some second-hand feedback about some “trepidation” from some of those unvaccinated based on “personal beliefs.”

“You go on a flight, the perfect flight is there’s no turbulence, you land it’s all good. I’m not expecting a perfect flight on this. I’m expecting a little bit of turbulence. But…the main point is getting the plane in safely,” Simpson added.

The county policy is expected to be used as a template for the six lower-tier municipalities to pass their policies. South Glengarry has already done so.

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