A Vernon resident is concerned about her city’s lack of a vaccine mandate for staff as COVID-19 cases remain high in the Interior.
As of Thursday (Nov. 4), the City of Vernon has not chosen to implement a vaccine mandate, unlike cities such as Penticton, Kelowna and Kamloops.
Communications manager Christy Poirier said in an email the city is looking closely at other cities’ vaccination policies and may create its own policy in the future. In the meantime, vaccination is strongly recommended for city staff.
“The city’s chief administrative officer has personally strongly encouraged vaccination as the scientifically established best means to fight the pandemic,” Poirier said. “Administration is closely monitoring the situation on mandatory vaccination policies across B.C. and the country and will make a decision about whether or not a policy will be implemented for Vernon at the appropriate time.”
But with Vernon’s second-dose vaccination rate sitting at 79 per cent as of Nov. 1 — behind Kelowna, Kamloops and Penticton — concerned resident Samantha Nagel says more needs to be done to increase vaccine uptake locally.
“Though I feel it is important to mandate vaccinations for city staff based on image and liability concerns, the true value of a vaccine mandate is to protect the vulnerable,” Nagel said.
“Our city needs to show commitment to the protection of our most marginalized community members by setting the bar, and doing their utmost to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.”
In addition to ensuring all city staff are vaccinated, Nagel says a vaccine mandate would set an example for the rest of the local population.
“The City of Vernon should set precedence by the action of implementing a vaccine mandate to its staff, to send a clear message off support to constituents for vaccination programs and public health measures in the fight against COVID-19.”
Vernon has implemented other COVID-19 protective measures and continues to follow the orders of the provincial health officer, senior levels of government and WorkSafe BC, Poirier said.
“Staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and to follow all the guidance and directives of the PHO (provincial health officer) and the Interior Health Authority,” she said.
Nagel said the city should follow the lead of other municipalities in going beyond what is required by the provincial government in terms of pandemic safety measures.
She believes most Vernonites would be receptive to a vaccine mandate, despite demonstrations protesting the use of vaccines that have cropped up at Polson Park over the course of the pandemic.
“I feel that the City of Vernon is only doing the bare minimum of what’s required, and has not opted to go beyond basic health and safety measures, for fear of backlash from a clear minority of residents.”