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Are vaccine mandates needed before school resumes in September?

London, Ont. -

Whether or not to impose a vaccine mandate has become a contentious debate as the Delta variant continues to spread in the province.

The Ontario government has repeatedly said it will not make vaccines mandatory, or have rules separating those who have been vaccinated from those who have not. But as teachers, especially those in elementary schools, prepare for a return to the classroom, they also are voicing concerns about what awaits them.

“We as teachers, educators are faced with the situation of going -- particularly to elementary schools -- where a significant number of people in those schools will not be vaccinated, particularly students 11 and under,” says Craig Smith, Thames Valley president for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

He adds the positive side to this is how many teachers have gone to get vaccinated voluntarily.

“A study out of Women’s College Hospital indicates that the vaccination rates, full vaccination rates, for teachers and educators as a whole is 89-90 per cent.”

With over 80 per cent of the general population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, Western University Assistant Professor and Bio-Ethicist Maxwell Smith believes mandating vaccines in certain circumstances isn’t that controversial.

“That kind of shows that it’s not as contentious as one might think. We also do public opinion polls and see that the vast majority of people support mandates in particular settings to keep us safe, so it’s not like a 50/50 issue that we’re talking about here...there is an overwhelming degree of support.”

While there is overwhelming support, Maxwell also believes there should be a nuanced conversation about who should be mandated.

“We can’t just say are you in favour or not. We need to talk about mandates in health care, or mandates in long-term care, mandates in school and actually differentiate between secondary and elementary school.”

Craig says the teachers' union is meeting this week, and this will be one of the topics of conversation, as parents, students and teachers all are eager for some kind of assurance of a safe environment in September. Top Stories

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