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Vaccine mandates for Canadian passengers, public servants – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
“Core” federal public servants will have to attest to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29 or face being put on leave without pay by Nov. 15. And, anyone who wants to board a plane or train in Canada will have to prove they’re vaccinated by Oct. 30 with “limited exemptions,” the federal government has announced.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined the details of the new COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Wednesday.

“This is about keeping people safe on the job and in our communities,” Trudeau said. “If you’ve done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID-19, to have your kids safe from COVID, to get back to the things you love.”

For the approximately 267,000 federal workers that fall under this new policy, it’ll be applicable whether employees work remotely or from the office, as well as if they work outside of Canada. The plan differentiates between those who are unable to be fully vaccinated, and those who are unwilling to be vaccinated.

There will be exemptions made for “certified medical contraindications,” as well as for religious reasons. Though, these accommodations will only be granted under certain parameters, including providing documented medical proof of the requirement for the exemption or testifying under oath to their religious beliefs, according to senior government officials that briefed reporters on the policy on a not-for-attribution basis, ahead of the announcement.

In addition to being put on unpaid leave, employees who do not attest to their vaccination status, or attest that they are unvaccinated, will be required to take an online training session on COVID-19 vaccines. They will also not be able to access their workplace or any off-site events or meetings. Travel for business, including to attend conferences, will also be prohibited.

These work-related measures will also be imposed on partially-vaccinated workers, though they will have up to 10 weeks to receive their second dose before being put on unpaid leave.  

The mandatory vaccination policy includes the RCMP, as well as full-time employees, casual workers, students and volunteers for federal departments, agencies, and offices such as the Department of Health, Veterans Affairs Canada, Service Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Canada Border Services Agency.

The new rules do not apply to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, though Freeland said that the Chief of Defence Staff will be moving to make vaccination mandatory under its own parameters. As well, separate agencies and Crown corporations like the Canada Revenue Agency are being asked to implement vaccine policies mirroring the requirements announced Wednesday.

Officials suggested that while this policy does not extend to all employees in federally-regulated workplaces, such as banks, the government is working with them to “ensure vaccination is prioritized for workers in these sectors.”

“We are taking this step to protect those who work in the federal public service, their families, and their communities. This measure also protects everyone who does business with the public service, whether it is getting access to your benefits at a Service Canada office, or safely traveling across our borders,” Freeland said.

Rather than requiring employees to provide their vaccine receipts the way that many Canadians are being asked to now to access certain public spaces such as restaurants and gyms, federal public servants will have to submit an online attestation of their vaccination status but could be asked to show proof “at any time.”

Defending this, the government said that because the federal public service is so vast, a system was needed that could be enacted quickly, but verifications will be done.

“It’s very straightforward: If you want to continue to work for the public service of Canada, you’re going to need to be fully vaccinated. And the way to ensure that that happens as quickly as possible, is to allow for the vast majority of public servants who are vaccinated, to make a simple straightforward attestation… That allows managers and departments to focus in on those people who will not,” Trudeau said.

Officials said that the tracking system opens Wednesday for some employees to begin submitting their attestations. There will be some flexibility granted for employees who, because of the work they are currently doing, are unable to access vaccination or provide their attestation by the deadline. They will have two weeks from the date they have access to both to become compliant with the policy.

“If an employee submits a false statement they risk disciplinary action, which could ultimately cost them their jobs,” said a senior official.

Reacting to the news, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) President Chris Aylward told CTV News Channel that the union has concerns about what’s been proposed, saying that while the organization supports a vaccination policy, this one appears “rushed.”

Aylward said that when it comes to the accommodations for those who are unvaccinated, the policy “falls short,” suggesting remote work or reassignment should be options.

PSAC represents more than 160,000 federal public workers.

“When the prime minister first talked about a vaccination policy on Aug. 13, he said that they would be talking to, to the unions. Unfortunately that did not happen. There was no meaningful consultation on this policy,” he said.

The government is considering workers to be fully vaccinated 14 days after they have either received a full vaccination series of a Health Canada authorized vaccine, received a NACI-approved mixed dose vaccination series, or if a Quebec resident, received a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection followed by at least one dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials said that if boosters become a widespread requirement, the policy could be adjusted accordingly, and that the policy will be re-assessed every six months to determine whether it needs to remain in place, citing the objective being public health.

PROOF FOR PASSENGERS

In addition to federal workers, employees and passengers in the federally-regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors will have to be fully vaccinated as of Oct. 30.

This means that any worker—including at retail or hospitality establishments in restricted sections of airports— or passengers boarding any domestic flights, or interprovincial trains or cruise ships will have to provide proof of vaccination. Ferry passengers are not included in these new rules.

There will be a short period of time where proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be acceptable to board, though by the end of November that option will no longer be available.

There will be limited exemptions for Indigenous communities that require fly-in services like medical care.

This policy will apply to any passenger ages 12 and older, as they are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by Health Canada.

To qualify, people will have to have received their last dose 14 days prior to travelling.

The government said that it is still working with employers on the “operational details” of implementing the new mandate, but for now it will be incumbent on companies such as Via Rail or WestJet to determine how they check the proof provided by their employees and passengers.

“Part of the work that we’re doing with the major carriers in this country is to integrate the proof of vaccination digital codes into their online booking process, so that when you print out your boarding pass either at the airport, or in advance, there will be a clearly marked proof of vaccination thumbs up or checkmark, so that the gate agent does not have to be checking documentation,” Trudeau said.

The government said it and will impose a “strict vaccine requirement in place for cruise ships before the resumption of the 2022 cruise season.

“Our message to all unvaccinated travelers is clear: If you’re planning a trip in the coming weeks, you need to book your vaccine appointment now,” said an official.

Trudeau also said that work is continuing to work with the provinces and territories, which hold Canadian’s vaccination records, to develop a pan-Canadian proof of vaccination for Canadians to use for international travel.

“The standardized, pan-Canadian proof of vaccination is a factual document that shows a traveller has been vaccinated against COVID-19. It is expected to have a common look and include the holder’s COVID-19 vaccination history, such as the number of doses, vaccine type(s), and date and place where doses were administered,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Sonia Lesage in an email to CTV News.

“This standardization will help both foreign and Canadian border officials to recognize it as a reliable Canadian document and to assess whether the traveller meets their country’s health and entry requirements,” she continued, suggesting it could also be used for inter-provincial travel proof when required.

WHAT ABOUT PARLIAMENT HILL?

While MPs don’t fall under the new mandate for federal workers, departmental staff do, as do administration staff in the House, Senate, and Library of Parliament.

Asked Wednesday whether he wants to see a vaccine mandate for MPs and their political staff, Trudeau said that while many staff within the parliamentary precinct will be covered, because of parliamentary privilege, MPs will have to “figure out how to move forward,” specifically referencing members of the Conservative caucus.

The Liberals, New Democrats, and Bloc Quebecois have said that all their MPs are fully vaccinated, though the Conservatives continue to not confirm the vaccination status of their MPs.

“We know that all other MPs in this House will be vaccinated, so it is something for Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party to deal with. They will have MPs not able to get on planes to come to Ottawa if they’re unvaccinated. They will have MPs putting their fellow colleagues at risk in a large but closed, windowless room in the House of Commons, who may be sitting beside or near someone who is unvaccinated,” Trudeau said.

“We will of course engage in as constructive a way as possible, but Canadians expect us both to lead by example, and not be vectors of transmission to each other.”

In early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just in its early days, the House of Commons suspended its proceedings until an arrangement could be made for altered sittings that accommodated the needed public health precautions.

After months of holding ad-hoc emergency meetings, all sides eventually agreed on a hybrid sitting format that allowed MPs to virtually vote and participate from their homes or offices and still appear, via screens, inside the chamber where a small number of usually nearby MPs participated in-person.

Introduced before the mass immunization effort allowed all eligible Canadians to roll up their sleeves to receive the additional protection against the novel coronavirus, the hybrid sitting format was intended to be a temporary solution.

Now, a new agreement will have to be ironed out before MPs kick off the 44th Parliament, which will happen sometime before the end of the fall, according to the prime minister. So far, caucuses appear split on whether the hybrid format should be revived. 

Because of the way rule changes for MPs are generally handled, any future agreements that would allow MPs to continue to participate virtually would likely require the agreement of all parties in the House. Any decision around requiring vaccinations would likely have to be made by the Board of Internal Economy, the cross-party committee of MPs that oversees the workings of the House of Commons.

With a file from CTV News’ Sarah Turnbull

Correction:

This story previously incorrectly stated that staff at Veterans Affairs Canada and Service Canada were excluded from this policy.

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Pfizer officially requests Health Canada approval for kids' COVID-19 shot – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Pfizer-BioNTech has asked Health Canada to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old.

The vaccine was developed in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech and is now marketed under the brand name Comirnaty. It was authorized for people at least 16 years old last December, and for kids between 12 and 15 in May.

Pfizer already submitted clinical trial data for its child-sized dose to Health Canada at the beginning of the month. The company said the results were comparable to those recorded in the Pfizer-BioNTech study in people aged 16 to 25.

Health Canada said it will prioritize the review of the submission, while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality, according to a statement from the department.

“Health Canada will only authorize the use of Comirnaty if the independent and thorough scientific review of all the data included in the submission showed that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the potential risks in this age group,” the statement read.

The doses are about one-third the size given to adults and teens age 12 and up.

As soon as the regulator gives the green light, providers will technically be able to start offering the COVID-19 shot to kids, though new child-sized doses might need to be procured.

Pfizer has delivered more than 46 million doses to Canada to date, and an analysis of the available data on administration from provincial and federal governments suggests there are more than enough Pfizer doses already in Canada to vaccinate kids between five and 11 years old.

But simply pulling smaller doses from the vials Canada already had stockpiled across the country may not be advised, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said at a media briefing late last week.

“We also understand from Pfizer that this actual formulation has shifted, this is a next generation formulation, so that is something that needs to be examined by the regulator,” Tam said Friday.

Canada signed a new contract with Pfizer for pediatric doses last spring.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has also been tested on children as young as six months old. Topline data for children under five years old is expected as soon as the end of the year.

Health Canada said it expects to receive more data for review from Pfizer for younger age groups, as well as other manufacturers for various age ranges in the coming months.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has noted rare incidents of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after receiving an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

As of Oct. 1, Health Canada has documented 859 cases associated with the vaccines, which mainly seem to affect people under 40 year old. On balance, the risk appears to be low, according to Tim Sly, a Ryerson University epidemiologist with expertise in risk management.

“Of course, no one considers any complication in a child to be acceptable, and a tremendous amount of caution is being taken to look for and identify all problems,” said Sly in a recent email exchange with The Canadian Press.

COVID-19 infection also produces a very high risk of other cardiovascular problems, he said.

Aside from protecting kids against more serious symptoms of COVID-19, the vaccine would also reduce the risk of a child passing the virus on to a vulnerable family member and make for a better school environment with less stress about transmission.

Once the vaccine is approved for kids, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will weigh in on whether the benefits of the shot outweigh potential risks for young children.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.

– With files from Mia Rabson

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N.Korea fires unidentified projectile off east coast -S.Korea military

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North Korea fired an unidentified projectile off its east coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

 

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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77 per cent of Canadians aged 55-69 worried about retirement finances: survey – CTV News

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TORONTO —
More than three quarters of Canadians nearing or in early retirement are worried about their finances, at a time when more and more Canadians plan to age at home for as long as possible, a new survey has revealed.

The survey from Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA),conducted in collaboration with HomeEquity Bank, found that 77 per cent of Canadians within the 55-69 age demographic are worried about their financial health.

Additionally, 79 per cent of respondents aged 55 and older revealed that their retirement income — through RRSPs, pension plans, and old age security — will not be enough to be a comfortable retirement.

“Determining where to live and receive care as we age has been an especially neglected part of retirement financial planning,” Dr. Samir Sinha, NIA director of health policy research, said in a news release.

“These are vital considerations that can also be costly. With the vast majority of Canadians expressing their intention to age at home, within their communities, it is essential that we find both financial and health care solutions to make this option comfortable, safe and secure.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed some shortcomings in the long-term care system, 44 per cent of respondents are planning to age at home, but many don’t fully understand the costs involved, the study notes.

Nearly half of respondents aged 45 and older believe that in-home care for themselves or a loved one would cost about $1,100 per month, while 37 per cent think it would cost about $2,000 per month.

In reality, it actually costs about $3,000 per month to provide in-home care comparable to a long-term care facility, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, the NIA’s director of financial security research, said it’s important Canadians understand the true costs of aging while they plan for their future.

“Canadians retiring today are likely going to face longer and more expensive retirements than their parents – solving this disconnect will need better planning by people and innovation from industry and government,” she said.

To help with their financial future, the researchers suggest Canadians should delay receiving any Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan payments as the monthly payments increase with year of deferral. For example, someone receiving $1,000 per month at age 60 would receive $2,218.75 per month if they wait until age 70 to begin collecting.

The researchers also suggest leveraging home equity and purchasing private long-term care insurance as ways to help with financial stability for the later years.

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