Quebec has no intention of revising its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the health network starting in a month, despite thousands of workers not being fully immunized.
Health Minister Christian Dubey said about 20,000 workers still haven’t received both doses of the vaccine – and risk suspension without pay.
“Now, of the 20,000 people who haven’t been vaccinated, about half are in direct contact with patients,” he told reporters Thursday in Quebec City.
The province is firm on its goal that those laborers get their shots. Dubey urged those who have not rolled up their sleeves before the October 15 deadline.
But he has also asked regional health officials to prepare a contingency plan in case vaccination targets are not met. According to Dubey, some employees may be assigned for administrative tasks from home.
Last week, the government announced it would go ahead with the controversial health order. The measure will apply to public and private sector employees – from medical professionals to housekeeping and security staff.
The plan comes after a government-convened committee hearing in August on a proposed plan for health care workers and the province facing a fourth wave of the pandemic. At the time, Dubey said 30,000 workers in the health system had not been fully vaccinated.
“So we haven’t vaccinated 10,000 people out of 30,000 people in the last two weeks,” he said on Thursday.
Asked about the mandate, the head of the province defended the decision to make vaccinations mandatory for health workers.
“Well, like I said, from the very beginning we have to make tough decisions,” said François Legault.
Asked about a possible break in health services if there are not enough staff, Dubey said “there are other ways.” He said he had a fully vaccinated vaccine from the agency working in the system, rather than the staff who came into contact with the patients.
“It’s an option,” he said. “I don’t like it, but I will never accept that a weak patient is treated by an unconcerned person.”
Amid the shortage of nurses, Dubey also said that the government wants to attract at least 4,000 of them to work in the public network through various financial incentives, which are yet to be announced.
–Granthshala News With files from Raquel Fletcher and the Canadian Press