OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has written to City Manager Steve Kanellakos asking him to develop a comprehensive vaccination policy for city employees.

"With more of the economy reopened, there will be more opportunity for COVID-19 to spread. Now more than ever it is vital that we ensure the City of Ottawa is doing everything it can to protect our staff and residents," Watson wrote.

Watson noted that Ottawa has a high level of COVID-19 vaccine coverage and he believes a majority of city employees are already fully vaccinated.

"Ultimately, we are asking our staff to do something that the vast majority have already undertaken, and while it may inconvenience a few, it is our duty to ensure our staff and residents are protected," he wrote.

According to Ottawa Public Health data, 74 per cent of Ottawa's total population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 67 per cent were fully vaccinated as of Monday, slightly ahead of the provincial average of 71.59 per cent and 64.67 per cent, respectively.

Watson wrote that his request follows decisions announced by the federal and Ontario governments.

"It is clear to me that the City of Ottawa has the responsibility to move in this direction," he said.

The mayor had said earlier this month that the city does not have the legal authority to mandate vaccinations for municipal employees. The city's legal department advised him that any mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for municipal employees would need to come from the Ontario government.

On Tuesday, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a directive mandating that there be a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers in high-risk settings no later than Sept. 7. Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing.

Watson asked Kanellakos to develop "a comprehensive vaccine policy for our staff" and to meet with the unions that represent city workers to discuss it. Watson told Kanellakos to have a policy proposal and timeline prepared before the Labour Day long weekend.