Dufferin News Municipal Politics Shelburne

Shelburne To Implement COVID-19 Vaccination Policy


After several meetings where council discussed the issue, staff for the Town of Shelburne will soon be subject to a COVID-19 vaccination policy.

On October 4, 2021, Shelburne’s council passed a motion directing staff to use Dufferin County’s upcoming COVID-19 Vaccination Policy as the primary basis for its own. Furthermore, the council resolved that the policy would have unvaccinated employees undergo rapid antigen testing twice per week prior to arriving on-site and that testing time will be unpaid. Unvaccinated employees without a valid exemption will be responsible for any costs involved with all COVID-19 testing beginning January 1, 2022. Testing is estimated at $4,160 annually if tested twice weekly for 52 weeks at a rate of $40 per test. Contractors and consultants performing work in town facilities and buildings will be subject to a similar policy and liable for any associated costs. A staff document submitted to Shelburne council states that the COVID-19 vaccination policy would be within the limits of the Ontario Human Rights Code and following public health guidance and provincial directives. It also says that the policy’s objective is to achieve complete vaccination amongst the municipality’s employees.

Under the policy, municipal staff will be required to show proof of either their vaccination status, a valid medical exemption, or an exemption acceptable under the Ontario Human Rights Code by November 1, 2021. Employees who do not provide the required documentation will be required to attend an education session on vaccine safety and effectiveness. Shelburne’s COVID-19 vaccine policy will apply to all volunteers and students, including interns and those who don’t receive pay, who perform duties for the municipality in a formal capacity. Non-compliance may result in disciplinary action. The staff document submitted to council states that the Town of Shelburne is currently unaware of what percentage of its staff is fully vaccinated. The town will make proof of vaccination or an eligible exemption a condition of employment for new staff and employees as part of the policy’s implementation. 

Councillor Lindsay Wegener was the sole councillor voting against the motion to establish and implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy for town staff. Before the vote, Councillor Wegener questioned whether vaccinated individuals should be assessed for COVID-19 due to concerns about the possible transmission of the virus. Wegener also inquired about the legalities of implementing such a policy and any potential repercussions to the municipality or staff if challenged in court. Chief Administrative Officer Denyse Morrissey reiterated what was stated in the document, that Shelburne’s policy would be built off Dufferin County’s, which will undergo a legal review in addition to receiving feedback from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. Morrissey also communicated that the town would not store medical information, as third-party pharmacies would perform the testing. The town will only be notified whether employees completed a test and if it is positive or negative. 

The most recent update regarding the COVID-19 vaccine from the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on September 15, 2021, states that studies suggest any associated transmission risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced in vaccinated people, including the Delta variant. Moreover, evidence suggests that if infected with the Delta variant, a fully vaccinated individual generally has a lower viral load and is infectious for shorter periods than unvaccinated individuals. It is also mentioned that more data is needed to understand more about viral shedding and transmission from fully vaccinated individuals, such as time since vaccination and the extent and setting of exposure.

On September 22, 2021, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a statement declaring its position that those choosing not to be vaccinated based on personal preferences do not have the right to accommodation under the code. The OHRC affirms that it is not aware of a tribunal or court decision that found a singular belief against vaccinations or masks amounts to a creed within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The statement also reads that even if there were a creed-based belief against vaccinations, the duty to accommodate can be limited if it would significantly compromise health and safety amounting to undue hardship, such as during a pandemic. 

A separate COVID-19 vaccination policy applying to Shelburne’s elected officials, as well as board and committee members, is expected to be brought back for the council’s consideration in November 2021. The Town of Orangeville recently passed a resolution mandating that board and committee members be removed if they are unvaccinated without a valid exemption, in addition to unvaccinated councillors having their pay suspended.

In related news, it was decided that the Centre Dufferin Recreation Complex will hire security to enforce COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

References – Shelburne To Implement COVID-19 Vaccination Policy

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