Canadian Manufacturing

Lobby groups urge Ontario government to give health care workers an advanced second dose

Manufacturing sector workers can now get the vaccine as well.

May 6, 2021  The Canadian Press

Thousands of health-care workers need to be prioritized for full immunization from COVID-19 as they work with patients hospitalized with the deadly virus, say groups representing them.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Canadian Union of Public Employees, and Service Employees International Union said on May 6 that they have asked the province to accelerate second doses for the workers but have received no commitment.

Health-care workers were among the first groups to be prioritized for a first dose of the shot in Ontario. However, the province later extended dosing intervals for COVID-19 shots from 21 days to four months, which means many workers are still waiting for the second dose.

“You are exposed during a 12 hour shift…to very ill patients that are COVID positive in emergency departments, in critical care units, in ICUs,” said RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun. “These patients are the sickest of the sick. One shot is not enough.”

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The request comes as the province expanded vaccine eligibility on May 6, allowing those aged 50 and older to book an appointment for a shot.

In addition, those with high-risk health conditions, and a number of employees who cannot work from home are now eligible to get the shot.

The newly eligible workers include those in the education, child-care, food and manufacturing sectors.

The president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions estimates thousands of workers in those facilities still have not received their second dose.

Requests for specific data on rates of health care worker immunization has not been provided by the government, Michael Hurley added.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said extending the interval between doses for up to four months has allowed Ontario to accelerate its vaccine rollout and maximize the number of people receiving protection.

“As we continue to receive more vaccines from the federal government, we may eventually be able to shorten the interval for all Ontarians,” Alex Hilkene said in a statement.

The government said on May 5 that it expects 65 per cent of adults to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May.