Canadian News Oct 13, 2021 1:25 AM EST

Canada's second top doctor calls getting COVID jab a 'personal choice'

Canada's deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said he tells unvaccinated friends it's their personal choice but recommends taking precautions like avoiding large gatherings.

Canada's second top doctor calls getting COVID jab a 'personal choice'
Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary, AB
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Canada's deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said he tells unvaccinated friends it's their personal choice but recommends taking precautions like avoiding large gatherings. According to Public Health Agency figures, four million eligible Canadians declined their COVID shots.

"Both my wife and I are completely vaccinated, so that's fine," said Njoo. He said his adult children received their immunization but added: "I'm not sure if they actually listen to me."

"I will state, you know, I've had conversations with friends who are having a tougher time with especially members of their family who are not vaccinated at all or only partially vaccinated," said Njoo. He continued: "If a family member is not vaccinated, you should politely explain your situation and your discomfort level, and if they choose not to be immunized, that's their choice."

"There are consequences in terms of even family dynamics and others feeling safe about getting together," said Njoo. "So I'll leave it at that."

Blacklocks reported that about 82 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, by official estimate. Among Canadians over 80, the group that accounts for most COVID deaths in Canada, immunization coverage is 91 percent.

Canadians 85 and older accounted for over half of COVID deaths, with many suffering from chronic heart disease, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Residents over 65 accounted for 94 percent of pandemic deaths.

Among Canadians of all ages over 12, rates of full vaccination range from 75 percent in Alberta and Saskatchewan to 81 percent in New Brunswick, 82 percent in British Columbia and Ontario, 83 percent in Manitoba, 84 percent in Nova Scotia, 85 percent in Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador and 87 percent in Prince Edward Island, according to a Health Agency report Update On Covid-19 In Canada: Epidemiology And Modeling.

"For the first time since mid-July, the epidemic has dropped out of a growth pattern nationally," said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer. While COVID "is unlikely to disappear entirely" this winter, "with the level of vaccine coverage that we have achieved in Canada to date, we are much better protected going into the respiratory infection season," said Tam.

The remarks followed an October 6 directive by the Treasury Board claiming unvaccinated federal employees could face loss of pay and health benefits if they do not complete a questionnaire stating they've been immunized. Documents show individual federal agencies already have vaccination rates up to 97 percent.

On September 28, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a blanket policy on compulsory vaccination. "We are going to ensure the federal public service is vaccinated," he said. "There is a clear requirement for vaccination for anyone who works for the federal government."

The Treasury Board in a Policy On Covid-19 Vaccination detailed numerous exemptions covering some 212,000 federal employees of some 300,540 governed by separate Acts of Parliament outside of "core public administration" including federal judges, Parks Canada wardens, postal workers, tax collectors, Canadian Food Inspection Agency meat inspectors and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

"The Canadian public service is vast," said Freeland. "We are Canada's biggest employer." Workers at federal departments that deal directly with the public and cannot be short-staffed are exempt. These include the Department of Veterans Affairs employees, staff that manage call centres for benefits claims at the Department of Employment, and tax processors and auditors at the Canada Revenue Agency.

Under contracts and collective agreements with federal unions, the Treasury Board cannot fire employees based on their medical history. The Policy On Covid-19 Vaccination does not require employees to prove their immunization status through vaccine claims could be audited.

"Why not ask for proof?" said a Treasury Board official who commented on the condition of anonymity. "Provinces and territories are responsible." Staff may also claim exemptions on medical or religious grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

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