Ontario’s COVID-19 passport system kicked in on Wednesday, and local businesses are still in the process of adapting to the change.
Under the new rules, people will be required to show proof of vaccination to access a number of non-essential services across the province, including restaurants, bars, gyms, theatres, and casinos.
The passport is meant to add another layer of protection against the spread of COVID-19 and to protect those who are not eligible to receive the vaccine, said Sudbury’s health unit.
Some businesses got a head start on implementing the new system days earlier while others have had to adjust to accommodate the new mandate.
“It was a really quiet day today, but I think we just need to wait a couple days and see how it goes,” said Eddie Gorc, owner of Eddie’s Restaurant on Regent Street.
“We started checking passports on Sunday because we have a lot of regular clientele – we’ve found that checking them at the door when people come in has been easiest. It makes the process go faster.”
Gorc said his employees have adapted to checking vaccine passports at the door, and so far, his customers have accepted the new rules.
“You know what? It’s a fact of life. It’s gotta be done. There are people out there who say it’s bull—-, but in my experience, it’s a small minority,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky during the pandemic compared to a lot of places. I have a good, steady, loyal clientele and a lot of guys who come in here twice a week. It’s a lot easier here to monitor compared to most places, I think.”
The owners of Deluxe Hamburgers on Regent Street have found the new passport system a little more difficult to implement.
As a result, the fast-food restaurant decided to close their dining room temporarily.
“We’re quick here. People come and go quickly. Even the ones who stay to eat here, they come and go quickly. Verifying someone’s passport and ID and making sure they got it 14 days ago? That takes time,” said Marsha Smith.
“We’re a small business and we have a small amount of staff. We’re just trying to keep up with all the ever-changing policies and procedures. It’s just not feasible for us to have someone out there asking for ID right now.”
Understaffing contributed to Smith’s decision, but it also had a lot to do with the nature of the business and how the restaurant is set up.
“We have to verify ID at the counter, and then make sure the ones who’ve been verified are the ones that are actually sitting down. Sometimes people change their mind – then we’re going to have to worry about that,” she said.
“Like I said, people are in and out of here quick. To have someone at the counter asking everyone if they are dining in or out – I don’t have the staff for that right now.”
Smith added that it’s still day one. As the kinks are ironed out of the system, she will consider reopening the dining room.
“We just want to be really careful. I think this new system is putting the responsibility on everyone, and we all need to take part in whatever it is that we feel is right to move forward,” she said.
“This business was built in Sudbury and it’s only in Sudbury. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the best town around. Our customers are amazing, and they’ve really gone with whatever is going on.”
She added that the pandemic has affected her business, but she believes Deluxe is lucky to be able to offer drive-thru and takeout services.
“We’re just happy to be here and be open. We’re going to keep trying our best,” said Smith.
Public Health Sudbury and Districts said the COVID-19 vaccine passports will be required in most high-risk settings where people are likely to have to remove their masks to participate in whatever they are doing.
This includes eating, working out, or attending an event like a wedding reception.
“It’s that extra bit of protection in locations where there might be a high risk of spreading or getting COVID-19,” said Natalie Philippe, a public health nurse at Public Health.
“It will create a ring of protection around individuals who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 or who can’t get vaccinated due their age or to an allergy or a medical condition that prevents it.”
Anyone who tries to access one of these non-essential services must provide proof that they’ve received two doses of an mRNA vaccine approved by Health Canada in addition to government-issued photo identification.
Those who received one or two doses of a vaccine not authorized by Health Canada must follow up with one dose of an approved vaccine or they must receive three doses of the unauthorized vaccine.
Individuals must have received their second dose of the vaccine at least 14 days prior to accessing one of these local businesses or services.
“It takes about 14 days for your body to develop a good immune response to the vaccine,” said Philippe.
Residents of the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts do not need to apply for a vaccine passport.
“It’s basically a receipt saying that you’ve obtained your vaccination – it could be a copy of the Ontario vaccination receipt that you received at the clinic,” said Philippe.
“There is a printout option, but if you have chosen not to print out your receipt, that’s perfectly fine. You can use your email receipt that proves you’ve received your second dose, or you can access your receipt through an online portal.”
She added individuals can also use a receipt signed by an Indigenous health provider or a receipt from another jurisdiction.
Medical exemptions require an assessment by a health care provider.
“Right now, enforcement will look similar to what happened with the mask mandate. We are going to continue to follow a progressive approach and work with our local enforcement partners,” said Philippe.
“Enforcement is done in partnership with (Public Health), Greater Sudbury Police Services, provincial police, and municipal bylaw officers. It is a joint effort, and we will respond to complaints in the community.”
The health unit is asking the public to be patient and kind while the new system rolls out.
“The individuals that are going to be asking for this information have to do so by law. They didn’t make the rules,” said Philippe.
“It is a new process, and it is going to take a bit of time to get adjusted, but just be patient and know that in terms of complaints and enforcement, they have to follow the law.”
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Toronto police officers who ignore COVID-19 vaccinate mandate policy will be put on unpaid leave – CBC.ca
Toronto police officers who aren’t fully vaccinated or haven’t disclosed their COVID-19 vaccination status by Nov. 30 will be put on indefinite unpaid leave, the service says.
Any such member, uniformed or not, will not be allowed to enter buildings until they comply with the mandatory vaccine and disclosure policy.
Those members will also not be eligible for promotions to supervisory or management positions, the service said in a news release Thursday.
“Vaccination against COVID-19 protects the health and safety of each of our members, our workplaces and the public we serve,” said Chief James Ramer.
Consistent communication needed for kids COVID-19 vaccine rollout: experts – Delta-Optimist
Kelly Grindrod remembers the confusion pharmacists felt last spring as Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine policy changed rapidly throughout the rollout, sometimes with little warning.
Shifting eligibility requirements differed across the country, booking sites were harder to navigate in some regions, and one vaccine product came to be seen as inferior to the rest, infuriating the public and vaccinators alike.
Grindrod, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and the pharmacy lead for Waterloo Region’s vaccine rollout, hopes provinces learned lessons from Canada’s first vaccination campaign for adults.
And if a COVID-19 vaccine is soon approved for children, she said a kid’s rollout needs consistent and clear messaging.
“Communication was a real challenge,” Grindrod recalled. “(Policy) would be announced nationally and everybody on the ground had to scramble because we were all hearing it at the same time.
“Immediately the phones would go crazy in pharmacies because people were trying to make sense of it…. We need a bit more lead-in, a bit more clarity, so (vaccinators) have answers before people start calling.”
Pfizer-BioNTech asked Health Canada to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five-to-11 this week. The regulator is reviewing data before making a decision.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Pfizer is ready to ship millions of child doses in the event of authorization, while Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand added that Canada has already procured syringes and other supplies needed to speed up the rollout.
In the United States,an advisory group with the Food and Drug Administration, which received an approval request from Pfizer earlier this month, is scheduled to meet next week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is then set to discuss authorization in early November.
Grindrod said U.S. regulators, which sometimes stream meetings online, have shown “more transparency around the (decision-making) process.”
Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization supply “fairly comprehensive” documents after they’ve made decisions, she said, but vaccinators could use a heads up “to facilitate planning.”
Logistics of the kids rollout — where children get a vaccine, how they book appointments and whether certain kids will be prioritized — are still to be determined. Ontario said Tuesday it was open to running mass vaccine clinics at schools after school hours.
Omar Khan, an immunology and infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, said school clinics are a great way to reach more kids. Pharmacies and family doctors can also help, but proper scheduling — which includes flexibility around parents’ work hours — is needed to ensure half-empty vaccine vials aren’t tossed at the end of the day.
“Anything that reduces accessibility barriers will help distribute (vaccines) to the queue of people waiting to get vaccinated across multiple sites,” he said.
Most logistics can be ironed out once supply is determined, Grindrod said.
Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine involves a different formulation, but Grindrod said some pharmacists have asked whether they must wait for kid-specific shipments or if a diluted adult dose could serve if supply was scarce. She urged clear information as soon as possible.
Messaging around the kids vaccine in general has to be handled with more care, she said,starting with whatever NACI and Health Canada recommend after reviewing its safety and efficacy.
“We need very careful communication … because we haven’t seen the data,” she said. “There are questions that need to be answered very clearly — what is the risk of COVID to kids at the point at which vaccines become available? What are the known side effects we expect to see based on data from trials?
“And then separately, what are the unknowns?”
Science communicator Samantha Yammine noted the difficulty in maintaining consistent vaccine advice when the science on COVID-19 evolved quickly throughout the pandemic.
Policies introduced midway through the adult rollout, such as NACI’s recommendation against using AstraZeneca for second doses, seemed to contradict earlier advice. But public health messaging constantly adapts to new data, she said.
While communication was confusing at times, the country still vaccinated nearly 82 per cent of its eligible population to date.
Since parents are likely more concerned about vaccinating children than getting the jab themselves, fears should be addressed honestly and parents made to feel part of the plan, Yammine said.
That includes equipping parents with child-friendly information they may need to field youngsters’ questions about the vaccine, she added.
And kids’ comprehension level shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I’m advising people to acknowledge how great a job kids have done,” Yammine said. “Wearing masks, understanding why they have to play with friends outside, it’s been really hard on kids.
“But they’ve shown us they can be involved and they can understand complex things.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.
Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Get the flu shot: Public Health – Quinte News
Local public health officials says getting the flu shot this year is especially important to reduce the risk of illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since many people are vulnerable to serious risks related to the flu, officials say everyone can help reduce the spread by getting vaccinated.
In a release, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health points out that it’s safe to get the flu vaccine at the same time as, or any time before or after the COVID-19 vaccine.
They point out influenza can be a serious disease and can lead to pneumonia or organ failure.
Statement from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health:
Getting the flu vaccine is especially important this year, to reduce your risk of illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many people are vulnerable to serious risks related to the flu, everyone can help reduce the spread by getting vaccinated. Your choice to get vaccinated will also help ensure critical health care resources are available to those who need them most. It’s safe to get the flu vaccine at the same time as, or any time before or after the COVID-19 vaccine, so do not delay – protect yourself with these important vaccines today!
Influenza is not caused by the viruses that cause COVID-19 or a cold. It can be a serious disease that causes some individuals to be in bed for a week or longer. It can also lead to complications such as pneumonia or organ failure. Vaccinated individuals are less likely to have severe complications and end up in the hospital – which will help ensure health care resources are available to those who need them most.
This year, residents are encouraged to seek their flu vaccination as soon as possible through their health care provider or a pharmacy. As public health resources continue to be redeployed to the COVID-19 pandemic, HPEPH is not able to offer community flu clinics to the general public this year. However, flu vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and those you love from serious illness and complications. Getting your flu vaccine early is the best way to protect yourself from the flu, as it can take up to two weeks to build immunity. The vaccine is available to individuals over 2 years of age at local pharmacies, and everyone over 6 months of age can receive the flu vaccination from their health care provider. HPEPH is considering the feasibility of offering small flu vaccination clinics to populations who are unable to receive the vaccine through these avenues, but any such clinics are dependant on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination and local case rates, as resources continue to be required for COVID-19 case and contact management.
“You got your COVID-19 vaccine – now it’s time to protect yourself, and those you love, from the flu,” says Dr. Ethan Toumishey, Acting Medical Officer of Health at HPEPH. “The COVID-19 vaccine has shown us how important and effective vaccines can be at reducing the severity of illness. While the COVID-19 vaccine reduces your risk of complications from COVID-19, it won’t protect you from the flu.”
To reduce the spread of illness in the community, all residents should continue public health precautions. The same measures that are helping control the spread of COVID-19 will help reduce the spread of seasonal influenza. If you have symptoms of the flu, stay home and follow testing guidance for COVID-19. Even if you are vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19, you can still get a mild case of these illnesses and spread them to others. The same public health precautions that prevent the spread of COVID-19, will prevent the spread of the flu.
- Stay home when you are sick
- Get tested for COVID-19 (if advised by screening)
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Clean frequently touched surfaces often
- Get vaccinated.
For more information, visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/flu-facts
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