MyVaccines.ca Makes it Easy for Canadians to Find and Book Their Next Vaccination

Toronto, ON: EMPOWER Health, a Canadian digital health innovator launches MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator to help Canadians find and book any type of vaccine in Canada. This is EMPOWER Health’s 6th year running a vaccine locator & booking website where last year focused on only flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines, and this year expands to all vaccines.  The map-based directory allows users to search and book a vaccination appointment at any public health clinic, pharmacy, primary care clinic, drive-thru clinic, and mass vaccination clinic in their region. 

To add to the convenience, users can sign-up to join a waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any clinic has vaccines available. They can also use the platform to search for other healthcare services, view operating hours, and find providers who speak their language, and even find family doctors accepting new patients.

MyVaccines.ca makes vaccinations easy for clinics as well. It’s the fastest and simplest way to let the community know what vaccines your clinic has available. With advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait-lists, managing vaccination appointments is a breeze.

MyVaccines.ca stems from an Ontario-wide pilot project the company launched during the 2020-2021 flu season. EMPOWER Health partnered with Immunize Canada to support access to flu shots through MyFluShot.ca – a vaccine locator that showed vaccine inventory and availability information for over 6,500 healthcare organizations across Ontario, which led to over 100,000 appointments booked and many stories from seniors who were able to use the tool to easily find high dose flu shots at a time of scarcity.

The vaccines available on the platform include the COVID-19 vaccine, Influenza (Flu) vaccine, Herpes Zoster (Shingles) vaccine and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Through MyVaccines.ca, the company hopes to improve healthcare navigation of the whole system and help bridge the gaps between vaccination access and delivery in Canada. 

“The vision with MyVaccines.ca is to have vaccine availability and inventory information from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadians find and book their next vaccination with ease.” said Dr. Ryan Doherty, President & Founder of EMPOWER Health. “This is a coordinated effort by healthcare professionals, networks and the public to help us build on this vision and make it as easy as possible for everyone to access public health programs while also helping healthcare professionals deliver quality care.”

In the past, EMPOWER Health has partnered with Immunize Canada, Asthma Canada, Canada’s National Institute of Ageing (NIA) and other international partners to support all stakeholders of the Canadian healthcare system through vaccine distribution and public awareness/access to vaccines.

About EMPOWER Health: EMPOWER Health is a digital health innovator that is transforming how patients navigate and access healthcare in Canada. Through their own platforms and partner initiatives, they are on a mission to empower all stakeholders of the healthcare sector.

During the past decade, EMPOWER Health has been supporting the Canadian healthcare system by implementing national registries, patient navigation websites/apps and online appointment booking infrastructure that powers initiatives focused on equitable access to healthcare services across primary care, acute care, pharmacy, and public health.

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EMPOWER Health launches MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator to help Canadians find and book any type of vaccine in Canada.

Hoping to Travel for the Holidays?

This is what you need to know about the standardized Proof of Vaccination for travel in Canada

On October 21st, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the implementation of a standardized Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination for travel. But what does this mean for Canadian travellers?

The information given below is subject to change in the coming months. Please visit travel.gc.ca for the latest information on travel policies in Canada.

In order to qualify as a fully vaccinated Canadian traveller, you must:

  • have received at least 2 doses of Government of Canada-accepted COVID-19 vaccines or at least 1 dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • have received your second dose at least 2 weeks before you enter Canada
  • upload your proof of vaccination in ArriveCAN
  • have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • meet all other entry requirements (for example, pre-entry test result)

If you are qualified as a fully vaccinated Canadian traveller you are still:

  • Required to show a pre-entry molecular test
  • Required to use ArriveCAN
  • Required to take an arrival test if selected

Currently, all Canadian travellers above the age of 12 are being asked to show their proof of vaccination in order to board planes, trains, and cruise ships in Canada (Burke, 2021). Additionally, all travellers returning to Canada must show proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test upon their arrival. Canadians who are looking to travel overseas will also be required to follow the protocols of the country and airline they are using, which may involve additional testing and/or an isolation period (Burke, 2021). 

According to Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, if you have not received 2 doses of Canadian-government approved vaccines by the end of November, you will not be eligible to board a plane or train in Canada–though limited exceptions will be made, it will only apply for emergencies and designated remote communities (Burke, 2021).

“Canadians have done their part by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. As new vaccine requirements roll out for travellers, we are working to ensure that those who travel have access to a reliable, secure way to demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccinations, both at home and abroad. We will continue to work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners so this standardized proof is available across Canada.”

  • The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

References

Burke, A. (2021). Getting on a plane today? here’s what you need to know about new vaccination requirements | CBC News. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/transport-canada-announcement-vaccine-requirements-travel-1.6229829.

Government of Canada. (2021). Covid-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada. Travel restrictions in Canada – Travel.gc.ca. https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/covid-vaccinated-travellers-entering-canada.

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently volunteers with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

myflushot

Lessons Learned from the 2020-2021 Ontario-wide Pilot

myflushot

During the peak period of Canada’s 2020-2021 flu shot distribution, demand for influenza vaccines was higher than expected. Many people were hoping to be vaccinated to avoid having symptoms and the potential for a serious enough case to be hospitalized during an expected second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The combined effect of higher than anticipated demand along with vaccine distribution delays resulted in many vaccination clinics being short on supply, leading to busy phone lines, long line-ups, overworked staff, and frustrated patients. 

But vaccine access wasn’t evenly impacted.  Some healthcare organizations had supply of influenza vaccines but very little traffic or interest from their local community, leading to a mismatch of demand and supply in many areas.

We saw behaviour similar to what happened during the COVID vaccine rollout, where people were searching for flu vaccines and in some cases going well out of their way to be vaccinated.  

During 2020, we ran an Ontario wide campaign called MyFluShot.ca, in partnership with Immunize Canada, to encourage providers to provide greater transparency to real time vaccine availability inventory.  We had 3,439 participating pharmacies and 1,342 participating medical clinics who signed up to provide their flu vaccine availability and inventory data.  That data was presented to patients on our health services locator, specifically filtered to show locations offering flu shots.  

Over that time we had over 3 million searches for flu vaccines on our platform.  A post user survey of 1277 users found that 92% had found a flu vaccine through MyFluShot.ca. 47% had used the waitlist / notification feature, a unique ability we built into the platform for users to be added to a waitlist and be notified when a flu vaccine was available at their desired location. 84% mentioned they would use the platform again during the next Flu season.  One user in particular comes to mind who was looking for a high dose flu vaccine for her and husband, and finding none in her local community found a location 80 KMs away and booked an appointment for her and her spouse. It made her feel very relieved that they were able to do this without a lot of hassle (except for a drive). 

Increase Transparency

We learned during the pilot that increasing transparency reduced patient frustration when demand exceeded supply.  Waitlists and email communications are vital when managing expectations of potential patients.  As with any new tool, there is a learning curve for some users, and we gained some valuable feedback as to how to make the process easier for users.  

From provider based to regional based waitlists. 

We learned that many patients looking for vaccinations are flexible to where they receive it, and like Covid vaccinations, many patients were putting themselves on multiple locations’ waitlists.  This creates an inefficiency for the whole system.  To address this, we’ve built into MyVaccines a regional waitlist.  A patient can sign up for a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any provider has vaccinations available.  We expect this to further optimize demand and supply of vaccinations in the future and make the lives of healthcare organization administrators easier as they don’t have to manually remove patients from waitlists who’ve gotten their vaccination somewhere else. It will also save the patients time as they don’t have to appointment shop at dozens of locations. 

Adopt Technology Faster 

Patients want an easy path to get vaccinated.  The easier it is, the more likely we are to having more equitable vaccination access.  Technology, or lack thereof, is a barrier.  Having patients trying to call multiple healthcare providers when their time is limited, and / or have language barriers or have accessibility issues can prevent them having timely access to vaccines.  With the use of technology that allows them to search, join a waitlist, and book appointments when vaccines are available makes vaccinations easier to access.  Healthcare organizations have typically been slower to adopt new technologies, but are moving faster to add these services to their practice. 

Changing is always more challenging in healthcare due to the higher risk involved in managing sensitive information and protecting patient health records. Yet the time is right for the adoption of these types of tools to accelerate. 

Release Notes, October 2021

Vaccine Inventory Management 2.0, Advanced Email Reminders, MyVaccines.ca Launch and More!

Welcome to the first issue of EMPOWER Health’s monthly Release Notes. This month, we have several new features to share, along with some exciting news for healthcare organizations. (MyVaccines.ca Launched September 1st with more features added monthly!)

Vaccine Inventory Management 2.0

One of the challenges our pharmacy clients encountered last year with Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations was limited supply.  Normally, booking logic for online appointment booking tools take into account time and practitioner availability.  But many of them had to limit the number of appointments they could take due to limited inventory and had to do this manually.  

The advancement of our inventory management now directly ties it into our online booking system and can not only display your ability to deliver vaccines on our locator, but limit the number of bookings based on your supply automatically.  

We’ve also tied the data into our waitlist management system. If you have no more vaccine inventory, the patients can go on your waitlist. If you have new stock, it can automatically trigger notices to patients on the waitlist about new availability. 

All of these enhancements are designed to reduce the amount of manual time required to manage vaccination appointments by putting real time information in the hands of the patients. 

As a helpful addition, we’ve also included online resources and information about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases – available to both patients and practitioners. Some of these resources include the CARD system, a vaccine hesitancy support guide for patients and practitioners.

New Online Booking Features

New online appointment booking features make it easier for healthcare professionals to customize the booking process to fit the unique needs of their organization. Now, EMPOWER Health users can easily add customizable checkboxes and fields to online appointment booking pages and processes, such as for pre-booking, on-booking and post-booking.

Healthcare professionals have the ability to add a “who are you booking for” field on the booking page so users can book appointments for others. This is useful for a caregiver booking an appointment for a companion or a caretaker booking an appointment for a minor.

Another tool which will become valuable for clinics and pharmacies administering vaccines during the 2021-2022 flu season is the ability to automatically schedule appointments for primer and booster doses and other vaccines. If a patient needs a follow-up appointment, it can be automatically scheduled on a future date.  If a patient has to rebook an appointment, they can do so directly on the platform, eliminating the need for patients to call the office and play phone tag with administrative staff to manage their appointments.

New Centralized Waitlist System

We learned that many patients looking for vaccinations are flexible to where they receive it, and like COVID19 vaccinations, many patients were putting themselves on multiple locations’ waitlists. This creates an inefficiency for the whole system. To address this, we’ve built into the EMPOWER Health locator a regional and location-specific waitlist feature.

Starting September 1st, anyone can sign-up to a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any organization has vaccinations available. If someone received their vaccination somewhere else, the system will automatically cancel the other appointments and notify the organizations. We expect this to make the lives of healthcare organization administrators easier as they don’t have to manually remove patients from waitlists. It will also save the patients time as they don’t have to make appointments at dozens of locations.

Advanced Automatic Email Reminders

Waitlists and email communications are vital when managing expectations of potential patients. An integrated communications strategy can improve client satisfaction and retention and boost effectiveness and efficiency for healthcare organizations.

Now, healthcare professionals can create unlimited customized email and text reminders for different appointment types. Patients will receive automated appointment reminders by email or SMS, and can confirm their appointment electronically. Appointment reminders can also include pre-screening questions, appointment instructions or links to specific forms.

For example, vaccination consent forms can be filled out online by patients before their appointment. Any last minute changes to where or how a patient attends their appointment can be easily sent beforehand. After an appointment, you can send post-appointment follow-up communications like thank-you emails, feedback surveys or any supporting documentation, all with a click of a button. 

MyFluShot.ca is Now MyVaccines.ca

During 2020, we ran an Ontario wide campaign called MyFluShot.ca, in partnership with Immunize Canada, to encourage healthcare organizations to provide greater transparency to real-time vaccine availability inventory.

Based on it’s success we launched MyCovid19Vaccine.ca – as a dedicated service to allow Canadians to find and book available COVID19 Vaccinations – which saw incredible demand as the provincial governments rolled out vaccines to various cohorts of patients. It exposed the fact that nationally we as an industry can do a lot better in helping Canadian’s locate vaccinations, especially during times of high demand and limited supply.

To help increase transparency and equity of vaccine delivery, we’ve evolved MyFluShot.ca and MyCovid19Vaccine.ca into simply MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator for all vaccines.  Our vision with this platform is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to make it easy for all Canadian’s find and book their next vaccination. This effort builds on the successful pilots and partnerships with organizations across the healthcare industry in Canada.

MyVaccines.ca makes vaccinations easy for healthcare professionals as well. It’s the easiest and fastest way to let the community know what vaccines you have available – without picking up the phone. It will improve healthcare navigation of the whole system, thereby increasing effectiveness and efficiency across networks. MyVaccines.ca has advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait lists that make managing vaccination appointments a breeze. In the MyVaccines.ca portal, healthcare professionals can also update their operating and holiday hours, the languages available at their clinic and other healthcare services they offer, easily directing patients to their location. 

As of September 1st, patients can sign-up to be notified when flu shots are in stock. Start accepting pre-bookings today with a free professional account.

Visit www.MyVaccines.ca to register now.


EMPOWER Health’s online booking tools

EMPOWER Health is a personalized online appointment booking platform and health service directory that help Canadians find and access the care they need.

EMPOWER Health’s digital health solutions include national directories of healthcare organizations, online appointment booking that integrates with clinical workflows and clinical software, wait-times services, centralized wait-lists email notification system and simplified vaccine inventory management. 

A Friendly Reminder to Get Your Flu Shot!

With COVID-19 being all the rage right now, many of us have forgotten that there are other ongoing public health concerns that continue to persist alongside the pandemic. One of these concerns include the spread of the Influenza virus—the virus that causes Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness otherwise known as “the flu.”

Unlike COVID-19, Influenza is not a new virus. It has been around for decades and is ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada (PHAC, 2020). On average, Influenza is estimated to cause about 3,500 deaths in Canada annually. Influenza can lead to severe illness, particularly affecting vulnerable populations including young children and infants, adults aged 65 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, those who are pregnant, Indigenous peoples and people who are currently residing in nursing homes. As new strains of influenza appear every year, receiving an annual immunization of the seasonal influenza vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of getting the flu and being hospitalized, and perhaps even death. 

Book your appointment with MyVaccines.ca

Because of COVID-19, most flu shot clinics are not currently offering walk-in vaccinations, and will require flu shot appointments. Luckily for you, MyVaccines.ca makes the Influenza vaccine booking process as easy as cake.

With its user-friendly interface, MyVaccines.ca works to safely and conveniently find available flu shot clinics near you. You can use its filters to easily search by location, clinic type, and seasonal influenza vaccine in multiple languages. By entering your email address, you will be notified when flu shots become available and will also be able to access a map showing all local flu shot options to help you decide where you would prefer to go.

You can sign up for email notifications to book you flu shot appointment here: MyVaccines.ca

References
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020, October 23). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/flu-influenza/health-professionals.html.

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently volunteers with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

What’s in a Name? The Messaging Behind Vaccine Passports in Ontario

Vaccine Passports have been all the rage recently as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the plan to implement them earlier this week. The system is set to cover “higher-risk” indoor spaces where masks can’t be worn at all times and will be applied in the following non-essential settings effective September 22, 2021 (Powers & Carter, 2021):

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout).
  • Nightclubs, including outdoor areas.
  • Meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and convention centres.
  • Sports and fitness facilities and gyms, with the exception of youth recreational sports.
  • Sporting events.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments.
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas.
  • Strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.
  • Racing venues.

The Power of Words

Health experts have recently claimed that the use of the term “passport” is causing more harm than good (Bensadoun, 2021). Ever since the concept of “vaccine passports” were introduced last year, falsified information has and continues to bombard public forums. As such, the level of support towards the implementation of this immunization record system has plummeted. 

Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and science communicator teaching at the University of Ottawa, claims that passports suggest “restrictions” and that “we [tend to] think of passports [and immediately associate them with] border control. You think of uninformed individuals looking up and down, asking for your papers and restricting you from something you feel you have a right to access” (Bensadoun, 2021).

A Familiar Concept

It is important to remember that vaccine passports-or in other words, immunization records have existed for many years and are common around the world. In most provinces in Canada, public schools will require proof of a child’s immunization record in order to attend. 

In the words of Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist and professor at Western University, “people feel that their liberties are being infringed upon with these sort of systems, despite the fact that we have always ordered society in the name of public health with particular protections that protect populations and we view vaccination status as one of those ways to do that” (Bensadoun, 2021).

References

Bensadoun, E. (2021, September 8). ‘Vaccine passport’ or ‘immunization record’? Why experts say there’s power in words – national. Global News. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://globalnews.ca/news/8171936/vaccine-passport-language-concerns/.

Powers, L., & Carter, A. (2021, September 2). Ontarians will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for indoor DINING, GYMS, Theatres | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-vaccine-passport-certificate-proof-1.6160728.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

The Evolution of MyVaccines.ca & How It’s Modernizing Canadian Healthcare

2021 saw an incredible increase in interest in vaccinations. Not just COVID19 vaccines, but vaccines of all types across the board.  The vaccination conversation for better and worse has become much louder.  As we’ve reignited the discussion for vaccine benefits – protecting oneself and their community against communicable and deadly diseases, we’ve also seen a shift in how people are looking for vaccinations.  

The early part of this shift actually happened during the 2020 flu season – more demand for flu vaccines from patients looking to avoid flu complications during a COVID wave – and shortages of those vaccines due to the mismatch in supply.  As a pilot with Immunize Canada we launched MyFluShot.ca as a way to allow vaccinators to provide transparency into their availability and supply, and for patients to find, join a waitlist, and book flu vaccines. 

Based on this success we launched MyCovid19Vaccine.ca – as a dedicated service to allow Canadians to find and book available Covid Vaccinations – which saw incredible demand as the provincial governments rolled out vaccines to various cohorts of patients.  It exposed the fact that nationally we as an industry can do a lot better in helping Canadian’s locate vaccinations, especially during times of high demand and limited supply.  There were many attempts to address this inequity in our industry from government agencies to crowd sourced twitter feeds, but none of these were able to provide full transparency and visibility into all providers.  

To help increase transparency and equity of vaccine delivery, we’ve evolved MyFluShot.ca and MyCovid19Vaccine.ca into simply MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator for all vaccines.  Our vision with this platform is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadian’s to find and book their next vaccination.  This effort builds on the successful pilots and partnerships with organizations across the healthcare industry in Canada, and we need all vaccinators to use our easy to use tools to help us build on this vision. 

Find and Book Your Next Vaccine Anywhere in Canada with MyVaccines.ca

On September 1st, 2021 EMPOWER Health launched MyVaccines.ca – a national locator with online appointment booking for all types of vaccines. The map-based directory allows users to search and book a vaccination appointment at any public health, pharmacy, primary care and mass vaccination clinic in their region. 

For the public, it means improving healthcare navigation, vaccination access and delivery. During the COVID-19 pandemic we witnessed the lack of infrastructure to support wide-spread vaccinations. If someone wanted to book a COVID-19 vaccination, they would have to call multiple healthcare providers to be put on multiple locations waitlists. Oftentimes, having to follow-up on their appointments by calling providers directly. This was frustrating, stressful and time-consuming for both patients and healthcare professionals. Through MyVaccines.ca, anyone can search, join a waitlist, and book appointments when vaccines are available. Users can sign-up to join a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any provider has vaccinations available. 

For healthcare professionals, it’s the easiest and fastest way to let the community know what vaccines you have available – without picking up the phone. It will improve healthcare navigation of the whole system, thereby increasing effectiveness and efficiency across networks. MyVaccines.ca has advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait lists that make managing vaccination appointments a breeze. It makes it easier for healthcare organization administrators to manage appointments as they don’t have to manually book or remove patients from waitlists who’ve gotten their vaccination somewhere else.

The vision with MyVaccines.ca is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadians find and book their next vaccination with ease. This is a coordinated effort by healthcare professionals, networks and the public to help us build on this vision and make it as easy as possible for patients to access and professionals to deliver quality care.

“No Jab, no job?”: Mandating Vaccines at Work

There has been ongoing debate on whether mandating vaccines in general is the most ethical approach to immunization. With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases however, many employers are now requiring employees to receive their vaccines in order to be able to continue to work. This is following Ontario’s chief medical officer of health’s release of new vaccination guidelines for healthcare and education sectors.

According to the new guidelines, starting September 7, 2021, all employees, staff, contractors, students, volunteers from high risk-settings such as ambulance services at hospitals and in-home and community care services will be required to show proof of vaccination or a medical reason for not being vaccinated (Ontario Newsroom, 2021). Those who choose not to provide proof of vaccination with two doses will be required to take an antigen COVID-19 test and complete an educational session (Ontario Newsroom, 2021).

Is this new policy effective?

The University Health Network (UHN) has recently confirmed that its current employees who are still unvaccinated by the end of October will be terminated (DeClerq, 2021). The health network’s CEO Kevin Smith claims that this newly implemented policy has led to a significant increase in vaccinations, as the percentage of vaccinated employees rose from 85% in late July to what is now 92% (DeClerq, 2021). Daniel Lublin, a Toronto-based employment lawyer, applauds UHN for making it clear as to what will happen if an employee refuses to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (DeClerq, 2021).

The ongoing dispute

While these new guidelines seem to be effective in convincing more individuals to get their shot, the real question is whether employers actually have the right to impose such vaccination mandates. The other concern is what happens to employees who are unable to get vaccinated due to physical and/or medical conditions. 

As such, it becomes clear that implementing new guidelines are not as black an white as the “no jab, no job” policy. In a recent CTV interview, employment lawyer Jon Pinkus states that “Employers are not obligated by law to have their employees vaccinated,” but until then, “many employers will likely be dealing with a high volume of disputes from employees” (Cranston, 2021). 

References

Cranston, M. (2021, August 24). No jab, no job? Experts weigh in on legality of vaccine mandates at private companies. British Columbia. https://bc.ctvnews.ca/no-jab-no-job-experts-weigh-in-on-legality-of-vaccine-mandates-at-private-companies-1.5558766.

DeClerq, K. (2021, August 21). Unvaccinated employees at Toronto hospital network told they will be fired. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/unvaccinated-employees-at-toronto-hospital-network-told-they-will-be-fired-1.5555653.

Ontario Newsroom. (2021, August 17). Ontario Makes COVID-19 Vaccination Policies Mandatory for High-Risk Settings. Ontario Newsroom. https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1000750/ontario-makes-covid-19-vaccination-policies-mandatory-for-high-risk-settings.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

An update on reopening post-secondary institutions

As the start of the 2021 Fall semester is fast approaching, many Ontarian post-secondary institutions have begun releasing their statements in regard to how they are going to approach reopening amidst the fourth wave of COVID-19. The following are some of the most recent updates from Ontario’s largest institutions:

University of Toronto

Starting Fall 2021, most classes, labs and tutorials will take place virtually. While the University of Toronto encourages all members of the community to become vaccinated, only students living in residence for 2021-2022 will be required to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before their residence move-in date  (University of Toronto, 2021). The University of Toronto strongly recommends that students receive their vaccine at least 14 days before moving in. According to the latest news report, “those who are unable to get vaccinated before moving in will have two weeks following their move-in date to receive their first dose, with the university helping to facilitate access to vaccines, subject to supply” (Kalvapelle, 2021). The University continues to remain hopeful about the return of in-person classes, student services and co-curricular activities this September and will continue to follow all public health guidelines (University of Toronto, 2021).

Western University

Western University has a similar vaccination policy to that of UofT,  with a mandate for all students living on campus to have received their first dose no later than Monday, September 13th, 2021 – one week after the first day of school. The University is preparing for a full return to in-person classes but also claims that the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 course offerings may be subject to change. The university will also be offering on-campus vaccination and testing centres to provide first and second doses for students, staff, and faculty members (Western University, 2021). 

McMaster University

At McMaster University, course delivery in Fall 2021 will consist of a hybrid of in-person and online elements; on-campus activities will be modified and residences will also be open. Masking indoors will continue to be required as per public health guidelines. Vaccines will also become mandatory as of September 7 in order to utilize campus facilities. The official statement reads that “Those who are not yet fully vaccinated, or who have not yet received an exemption for a validated human rights ground, will be required to submit proof of a negative COVID test result twice a week. This testing protocol will be in place until October 18 when vaccines or an approved exemption will be needed to attend a McMaster campus or facility” (McMaster, 2021). 


Waterloo University

Effective September 1, 2021, all University of Waterloo visitors will be required to declare their vaccination status, and those that do not report being vaccinated must undergo regular COVID testing (University of Waterloo, 2021). The process to declare vaccination status will be mandatory for anyone coming on to campus. The University will require all visitors to provide an attestation that the information regarding their vaccination status is accurate and truthful. Those who are not vaccinated or choose not to answer will also be asked to provide an attestation that declares their consent to participate in the rapid antigen screening program (University of Waterloo, 2021).

References

Kalvapalle, R. (2021). U of t to require covid-19 vaccinations for students living in residence. University of Toronto News. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-require-covid-19-vaccinations-students-living-residence.

McMaster University. (2021, August 16). McMaster requires proof of vaccination and MANDATORY Vaccines: A letter from the president and Provost – Covid-19 (coronavirus). COVID. https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/mcmaster-requires-proof-of-vaccination-and-mandatory-vaccines-a-letter-from-the-president-and-provost/.

University of Toronto. (2021). Your guide to FALL 2021 at U of T. Resources for students for fall 2021 | University of Toronto. https://www.utoronto.ca/utogether/resources-for-students.

University of Waterloo. (2021, August 16). Mandatory vaccination and attestation. COVID-19 Information. https://uwaterloo.ca/coronavirus/news/mandatory-vaccination-and-attestation.

Western University. (2021). COVID-19 information for the campus community. COVID-19 Updates – Western University. https://www.uwo.ca/coronavirus/faqs.html.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.