Update: City of Hamilton responds to criticism after religious leaders given vaccine priority

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Published April 14, 2021 at 3:10 pm

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The City of Hamilton responded after critics expressed frustration with certain faith-based leaders being given priority for the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of most essential workers and many with underlying health conditions.

In an email statement provided to intheHammer on Thursday (Apr. 15), the City said the decision “is based on an ethical framework and is determined by the risk of the populations or sub-populations” within Phase Two of the provincial plan.

The backlash comes as residents attempt to navigate through a cloudy and sometimes complicated vaccination eligibility program and provincial booking process.

“For essential workers who cannot work from home, we are awaiting further information from the Province on when these community members can book a vaccine appointment,” the City said.

The province, however, does list “those who cannot work from home” in its current framework. It also lists “individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers” and “at-risk populations.”

While the framework does allow for some municipal interpretation, cities are also bound to vaccine availability.

The availability and accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccines are a hot topic throughout the country and the City of Hamilton stoked the local fire Wednesday (Apr. 14) morning when it announced on Twitter that “faith-based leaders who live/work in #HamOnt can register for a COVID-19 vaccine if they meet certain criteria…”

The criteria include religious leaders who are in close contact with persons and families as part of their regular role. The listed examples include end-of-life care, home visits to unwell persons, and pastoral care.

Most of the criticism came from those still waiting for their first dose. Many claiming to have underlying health conditions and claiming to work as an essential worker, or know someone who does.

Hamilton Public Health has been cautious with its rollout compared to some other Ontario cities — some of which have had to cancel thousands of appointments due to shortages.

Under its current rollout plan, Hamilton had been vaccinating adults who are 50-and-older based on certain criteria and Indigenous adults through vaccine clinics and pharmacies.

To date, around 137-thousand doses of the vaccine have been administered, which amounts to around 24 per cent of the eligible population.

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