By Mike Baker
Ontario Premier Doug Ford surprised me once again last week, and not in a good way.
During a press conference last Thursday, Ford said he would not make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, informing media it is people’s constitutional right to decide whether or not they want to get the shot.
He’s absolutely right in that regard – inoculations have always been a personal choice. People can’t be forced to put something in their bodies against their will.
There are, however, repercussions for those decisions. It’s always been that way.
Right here in Ontario, in order to attend school students must prove they have been vaccinated against a wealth of different diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, whooping cough and chickenpox.
Any student who isn’t vaccinated against any one of the above runs the risk of being removed from school – at least until they get their shot. Now, there are some exemptions. A child can be freed from the responsibility of being vaccinated due to medical reasons, or religious beliefs. Even then, they are forced to watch an educational video highlighting why it’s important to be vaccinated.
So, while students aren’t exactly made to get a particular vaccine, they will be extremely inconvenienced if they, or their parents, decide they don’t want them to have it.
There are similar guidelines and regulations in effect at many job sites across the country, including, you guessed it, at hospitals and health care facilities.
It seems strange then at a time when the entire planet has been ravaged by COVID-19 that health care workers in Ontario wouldn’t be told to get the vaccine that protects not only them against it, but also the people they treat.
And there is a precedent, by the way. Both France and Greece announced last week that they will be making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for anyone that wants to work in the healthcare sector. More countries are expected to follow suit.
I understand that, for most, this is a moot point. The vast majority of health care workers have been vaccinated. At Haliburton Highlands Health Services recent annual general meeting, CEO and president Carolyn Plummer announced that 80 per cent of the hospital’s staff had been fully vaccinated. Those statistics likely ring true for most health facilities across the province.
Still, there are a select few who refuse to be vaccinated.
The Hippocratic Oath undertaken by health care professionals states “first, do no harm.” I’m sorry, but anyone working inside our hospitals, our long-term care homes, or anywhere that treats other people cannot say they are following that oath while they stand firm on not getting a vaccine.
I’ve seen the arguments that say the vaccine isn’t a cure, that it only decreases the chances of contracting COVID-19 and therefore shouldn’t be seen as a necessity. It’s true, the vaccine is only effective around 95 per cent, meaning there is a chance you can still get COVID even after getting both your shots. Just like there is a chance of you being seriously hurt if you get into a car accident while wearing a seatbelt. Still, you’re probably going to want to go on wearing that seatbelt.
I sense I’m dragging this on a bit now… I guess my point is, if you don’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, then fine. That’s your right. But the minute it starts to impact other people – especially people who are vulnerable, coming to you for help – that’s when common sense has to prevail.
Bottom line, health care workers, do the right thing. Get vaccinated, whether Doug Ford says you have to or not.