London-area well being unit mandates COVID booster shot for employees – London Free Press (Blogs)

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The London-area health unit has made COVID-19 booster shots mandatory for its staff, breaking from the city’s two hospitals that have yet to require third doses for their employees.

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The London-area health unit has made COVID-19 booster shots mandatory for its staff, breaking from the city’s two hospitals that have yet to require third doses for their employees.

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More than 500 staff at the Middlesex-London Health Unit have until Feb. 18 to comply with the booster requirement, a move that is critical in the face of the highly contagious Omicron variant, the city’s top doctor says.

“The evidence now is very clear that, against the Omicron variant, two doses are not going to prevent symptomatic illness,” acting medical officer of health Alex Summers said Friday.

“It was very clear to us, internally, that, to protect our staff, we would require the booster.”

The health unit, like London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for its staff last fall.

Though the Middlesex-London Health Unit drafted its staff vaccination policy at a time when two doses were the norm, it made sure to include the possibility of future booster doses in the regulation, Summers said.

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Both LHSC and St. Joseph’s have encouraged their staff and doctors to get booster shots but have not yet made the third shots a requirement.

“This is in keeping with the province of Ontario’s definition of fully vaccinated (a person with two doses),” LHSC’s interim vice-president of human resource, Julia Marchesan, said in a statement.

“We have encouraged everyone within LHSC’s walls to receive their third dose and continue to offer on-site, drop-in vaccination clinics for staff and physicians, as well as patients and care partners.”

Neither the provincial nor federal government have shifted the definition of fully vaccinated to include three doses. Ontario’s vaccine passport system, which prohibits unvaccinated people from indoor dining, gyms and other public spaces, requires people have two shots of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

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The protection against symptomatic illness provided by two vaccine doses in this latest wave of the pandemic is not the same as in other waves, Summers said.

“Now, we’re in a position where clearly, immunity wanes and the Omicron variant is less impacted by two doses,” he said. “If you only have two doses right now, you are not at all fully protected, no matter what the definition of fully vaccinated is.”

High-risk health-care workers became eligible for booster doses in November, weeks before the general population. St. Joseph’s has had more than 30 on-site clinics offering booster shots to staff in the last two months.

Since both hospitals are encouraging staff to voluntarily report their booster doses, estimates of third dose coverage among employees are inexact.

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The province announced in December all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers in long-term care homes must have their booster shot due to the vulnerability of the residents for whom they care.

More than 80 per cent of staff at St. Joseph’s Mount Hope Centre for Long-term Care have reported their booster shot to date, the hospital said in a statement. Staff and doctors at the facility have until March 14 to comply with the booster mandate.

In October, LHSC terminated 84 employees for failing to comply with its two-dose vaccination policy. St. Joseph’s terminated 40 staff in November for non-compliance with its mandate.

Both hospitals have been hit with COVID-19 outbreaks in wards and unprecedented staff absenteeism due to infection and exposures during the fifth wave.

About 52 per cent of people 12 and older in London and Middlesex County have received their booster shot as of Jan. 30.

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CORONAVIRUS CASES: THE NUMBERS

(*Figures for Southwestern Ontario as of Friday, February 11, 2022, at 1 p.m.)

Ontario — 1,067,511 cases

London-Middlesex — 30,604 cases, 327 deaths

Elgin-Oxford — 10,758 cases, 147 deaths

Brant — 8,105 cases, 59 deaths

Chatham-Kent — 6,473 cases, 53 deaths

Sarnia-Lambton — 9,394 cases, 120 deaths

Huron Perth — 5,355 cases, 91 deaths

Grey-Bruce — 5,843 cases, 30 deaths

Windsor-Essex — 36,287 cases, 572 deaths

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