At its meeting on Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022, Kingston City Council voted to suspend its vaccine mandate for City staff, meaning that as of Aug. 1, vaccination against COVID-19 will no longer be mandatory for employees of the City of Kingston. Under the current policy, all staff are required to provide proof of vaccination as a condition of employment. Those who are not vaccinated or prefer not to disclose their status are required to attend an education session on the benefits of vaccines.
Given the change in guidance from Public Health experts regarding vaccinations and the lifting of other restrictions over the last several months, staff recommended that Council drop its mandate. However, the staff report noted that the City will “continue to promote the health and safety of all City personnel, and will adhere to Public Health guidelines.”
Despite the fact that vaccinations will no longer be mandatory for City employees, staff will still encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, “along with other preventative measures, such as health screening, physical distancing, hand hygiene, increased air exchange, and enhanced cleaning.”
Tuesday’s meeting saw little debate on the vaccination item; however, Countryside District Councillor Gary Oosterhof questioned the timeline of the rule change and asked why it couldn’t be implemented immediately. To that point, the City’s Commissioner of Corporate Services, Neil Carbone, responded, “It was a date that allowed us time for appropriate communications. We do have staff who were off because of the policy, so it gives us time for recall and communications to everyone.”
King’s Town District Councillor Rob Hutchison expressed some concern about the current state of COVID-19 in Kingston. “I’m fine with suspending the policy, which is [the] essential part of the motion,” said Hutchison. “But it’s the surrounding context of [growing hospitalizations]. So, I’m wondering if we could have the head of Public Health [speak] about what appears to be developing… of growing Omicron BA.5 in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”
Commissioner Carbone stated that the City consulted with medical experts prior to issuing the report. “We have been in touch with Public Health in the weeks and months leading up to this recommendation, and most recently advising of the staff’s approach… and it is in line with current Public Health guidelines.”
Despite his reservations, Hutchison ended up voting in favour of the recommendation; it ultimately passed by a vote of 10-2, with Councillors Peter Stroud (Sydenham District) and Jim Neill (Williamsville District) voting against.