COVID-19: Health authority in N.B. flip flops, eyes making vaccines mandatory for staff – Global News

Horizon Health Network in New Brunswick says it is in discussions to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for staff, just four months after saying it would not require it like other vaccines.

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Erin Arsenault, acting chief human resource officer for Horizon Health, confirmed those discussions in an email Monday. It is a reversal of what the regional authority said in January.

Read more: N.B. Premier asks for legal opinion on requiring COVID-19 vaccination for long-term care workers

COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory right now, she said.

Vitalité Health Network, the province’s Francophone health authority, previously told Global News in January it would not make vaccinations for Coronavirus mandatory.

It did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

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It comes as the province revealed at least 14 of the 547 long-term care homes have less than 50 per cent of their staff vaccinated against the virus.

Premier sought legal opinion

Premier Blaine Higgs asked government lawyers in May to look into whether COVID-19 vaccination could be a condition of employment for those working in long-term care homes.

Higgs wanted to know if it could be an option should vaccination rates among employees remain low.

Read more: Health authorities in N.B., N.S., won’t make COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees

“We do have cases where people have to meet certain requirements to come to work, be it in a healthcare facility or a long-term care facility, where they have certain standards they have to meet,” Higgs said in May.

Still no long-term care mandated vaccines

The Department of Social Development said it is not considering mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations at this time.

Robert Duguay, a spokesperson for the department, said the 14 long-term care homes with vaccination rates less than 50 per cent are trending in the right direction.

Read more: New Brunswick’s mandatory vaccination bill voted down

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Shannex, the province’s largest long-term care provider, said the majority of its New Brunswick staff are vaccinated.

Katherine VanBuskirk, a spokesperson for the company, added that they believe vaccination is a critical part of keeping the senior population safe.

“At this time, the Department of Social Development has not made it mandatory for employees working in long-term care or special care homes to be vaccinated,” she said in an email.

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