Toronto–Two groups representing Ontario's physicians and registered nurses are calling for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of the province's healthcare workers, a policy Premier Doug Ford has said he will not support.
The Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario made the calls on Friday, the day after Ford said he wouldn't mandate the vaccine for workers in any industry.
"Vaccines are the best way to control the spread of COVID-19, and remain an essential component in protecting our patients, families and friends,'' OMA president Dr. Adam Kassam said in a statement.
The physicians' group cited a recent survey of its members that found 98% of respondents had already received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
While the OMA did not reference Ford in its statement, the nurses' association said the premier was "on the wrong side of science'' with his position on the issue of mandatory shots.
"Nurses stand with science and for patients,'' the group said on Twitter. "This is why we call for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.''
Ford, who has personally been fully vaccinated, said on Thursday that he encourages people to get both COVID-19 doses but thinks they should have the right to refuse the shots.
"I think it's our constitutional right to take it or not take it,'' he said when asked if he would make the vaccine mandatory for healthcare workers.
"I've been out here for months, begging, pleading for everyone to get it, but no one should be forced to do anything.''
He has also rejected the idea of an Ontario "vaccine passport'' that would give people access to certain services, saying it would be up to employers to develop their own vaccination policies.
The government has said people can present their receipt from their shots to businesses or other settings that ask for it.
Many (79%) adults in Ontario had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday and 60% were fully vaccinated.
The provincial government has recently introduced stricter COVID-19 vaccination rules for workers in long-term care homes, but the policy stops short of requiring that workers take the shot.
Ontario long-term care homes saw widespread outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic. The situation has improved as the vast majority of residents have been vaccinated against the virus, but outbreaks have persisted mainly among staff, whose immunization rates have lagged.
The province has now made it mandatory for long-term care staff to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status. Workers who don't take the vaccine for non-medical reasons must take mandatory education about the importance of immunization.
As of this week the government reported 93% of long-term care staff had received at least one dose and 87% were fully vaccinated.