Low vaccine uptake among long-term care home workers leaves Ottawa families frustrated
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa woman is frustrated with the apparent low uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine among long-term care home workers in the capital.
Ottawa Public Health says approximately 58 per cent of staff in long-term care homes have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Now, a long-term care home is in lockdown due to a COVID-19 case involving a staff member.
"Something needs to be done to protect our elderly," said Melanie Dae, whose husband is a resident at Extendicare Medex.
Dae visited her husband Thursday, but her visit is limited. Extendicare Medex has put in place its COVID-19 outbreak protocol due to a COVID case among staff.
This despite the fact her husband, as well as nearly 90 per cent of the residents at the home received at least one dose of the vaccine.
"He’s not allowed to leave his room, he eats in his room, everything is done in his room," said Dae. “I was under the impression anybody working in long-term care was vaccinated."
But that’s not the case.
"Based on self-reported data from 23 of 28 LTCHs who responded to the OPH outreach, OPH estimates that the LTCH staff uptake for the first dose of the COVID vaccine to be approximately 58 per cent on February 25," said Ottawa Public Health in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
"Obviously, it’s a problem. We want to have that number as close to 100 per cent as possible," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist and member of the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine task force.
"We really need to work with the people that have not yet been vaccinated to make sure we have an understanding of why. Have they been given opportunities for vaccination? Do they have questions about vaccination?" said Bogoch.
In a statement to CTV News, Extendicare says it continues to encourage all staff to be vaccinated.
"Extendicare provides support for all staff to remove barriers to vaccination including paid time off to attend a vaccination clinic, reimbursement of any travel expenses incurred and paid sick time in the unlikely event of any side effects," said Extendicare on Thursday.
"To further support staff, we are facilitating on-site vaccination clinics at the home, including one this morning, which our team has responded to positively. With the additional vaccinations that occurred today, more than 77 per cent of our team members at Extendicare Medex have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with further vaccinations ongoing on a daily basis."
Still, Dae is calling for more to be done.
"It should be mandated. If you work with the elderly in long-term care, retirement homes or in their homes, you should be mandated to get the vaccine," she said.
But experts say, legally, that could be difficult.
"Certainly, it’s possible. However it’s far from certain. There would be arguments in favour of imposing a vaccination program in regards to COVID-19 in particular industries, in the health care industry specifically," said Alex Lucifero, labour and employment lawyer.
Being vaccinated against the virus hasn’t provided the level of freedom Dae had hoped it would for her husband.
She said if it were up to her, things inside the home would be different.
"If you don’t want to get vaccinated, i don’t want you caring for my husband," Dae said.