Hamilton public school board approves mandatory COVID-19 vaccination procedure


Published September 14, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Hamilton’s public school board passed a motion at Monday night’s (Sept. 13) meeting that outlines a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination procedure for all staff, Trustees, service providers and volunteers.

The notice of motion in front of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) trustees, put forward by trustee Alex Johnstone, directed board staff to work with Hamilton Public Health Services, and HWDSB employee groups to develop ‘a mandatory vaccination measure grounded in education and incentives.’

“Keeping schools open has been deemed a priority for children’s learning, mental health and well-being,” the motion said.

“It is incumbent upon society to protect children under 12 who are ineligible to be vaccinated at this time and vulnerable populations who are at highest risk of developing complications from COVID-19.”

In her comments introducing the motion, Johnstone reiterated that the spirit of the motion is to ensure that the board is doing is everything in its power to improve safety in schools and prevent further closures.

“We must do everything within our capacity to keep schools open,” she said. “We’ve seen the impact closures have had.”

HWDSB staff were expected to submit a formal attestation by the end of last week to disclose and provide proof of their vaccination status, the board said in a news bulletin.

According to a staff presentation on COVID-19 Immunization Disclosure at Monday’s meeting, 6,614 HWDSB employees (91 per cent) of 7,251 who are actively working have disclosed their vaccination status to the board as of Sept. 10.

Of those actively working, 637 employees (nine per cent) have not disclosed their vaccination status.

Staff who are unvaccinated were also asked to identify the reason for their disclosure status including: medical, human rights, or personal.

The presentation showed that 5,957 staff (82.2 per cent) are fully vaccinated and 657 staff (nine per cent) are unvaccinated. Of those 657, 30 per cent have received their first dose, 60 per cent are not vaccinated for personal reasons and 10 per cent for medical reasons.

Under the new motion, any HWDSB employee, Trustee or service provider who has an approved formal exemption and is not vaccinated will be accommodated and required to complete regular asymptomatic rapid testing and demonstrate a negative test, as per the recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

There are plans in the works to provide this type of testing at several Hamilton pharmacies, director of education Manny Figueiredo told trustees, but tests will likely be available for staff members to do at home eventually.

For those who do not adhere to requirements by a set deadline, which is yet to be determined, staff are directed to develop steps such as limiting access to physical HWDSB environments.

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