Chatham-Kent council approves vaccine and testing policy

A nurse administering the seasonal flu vaccine. (File photo)

Chatham-Kent Council has approved a vaccine policy that sets a deadline for all councillors and committee members to receive their shots.

Councillors approved the vaccine policy in a near-unanimous vote after little discussion during Monday evening’s council meeting.

The vaccine and test policy will be implemented by October 18 and will apply to all members of the council, as well as citizen volunteers, committees, and local boards.

“The Chatham-Kent policies that are being developed are not mandatory policies,” said Cathy Hofman, the general manager of corporate services. “They’re policies that offer an alternative to the vaccination, that is testing.”

The policy calls for councillors to be “fully vaccinated to attend municipal sites for the purposes of fulfilling their duties.” It also applies to anyone appointed to council committees or who sits on a local board. Any members who remain unvaccinated without an approved exemption or a negative test will not be allowed to access the municipal property for any activities related to fulfilling their duties or take their seat at in-person meetings.

Councillor Amy Finn, who said she was not anti-vaccination or against the policy, expressed concern about disclosing a person’s vaccination status online.

“Many don’t feel that they should be declaring [their status] to an internet source,” she said. “In my belief, it violates the personal information protection and electronics act, as well as personal health information protection act.”

However, Director of Legal Services Dave Taylor confirmed the policy was “in line with the municipality’s practices,” regarding online services that require a person’s personal health information.

“We can choose to be vaccinated or we can choose to be tested, but we have to choose for the safety of our workplaces and our community,” said Councillor Marjorie Crew. “I see the vaccine as a tool to get us out of this and I am going to support it.”

Councillor Melissa Harrigan, who was also in support of the policy, said it was not a coercive policy but rather a process of making public spaces safe.

“As public servants, both elected and employed, we have an obligation which is to serve our community and to keep our community safe.”