Winnipeg city council members could soon be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
A new motion calls for elected officials and their political staff to be fully immunized by Nov. 15.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, who is pushing for the change, said the move will help protect members of the public who visit city hall.
"Folks want our assurances that, when they are participating in democracy at city hall, that everyone… (is) double vaccinated. This motion provides (them) comfort," said Rollins, protection committee chairwoman.
The change would help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and avoid needless hospitalizations, the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry councillor said.
The motion was unanimously approved by council’s executive policy committee Tuesday but still requires a full council vote.
If given approval, it would set a first-dose deadline of Sept. 30, and require second doses by Oct. 28, which would ensure everyone is two weeks past their second dose (and thus considered fully immunized) by mid-November.
The City of Winnipeg should ensure all affected politicians and staff are able to work remotely so they won’t have to attend the city hall complex if they aren’t vaccinated within that time frame, Rollins said.
Mayor Brian Bowman spoke in favour of the mandate.
"I’ve been double vaccinated and it’s something that I would encourage, not just my council colleagues, but all Winnipeggers to go (do). It’s a way to help protect our community," he told media Tuesday.
If council approves the change, the mayor said it will echo a similar policy recently announced for front-line city staff, that affects those working in public safety, community protection, recreation services, public transportation and public-facing customer service roles. On Sept. 14, the city announced it would also require those workers to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15.
When the initial staff mandate was announced, city officials promised to explore options to redeploy and/or offer frequent COVID-19 tests as alternatives for those who are not vaccinated. Work on those options was still underway Tuesday, the city said.
Officials are seeking details from the province on how frequent testing could be used to reduce the risk of unvaccinated people attending city buildings, an option that could also apply to the proposed political mandate, Bowman said.
Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) is the only council member who has confirmed she hasn’t received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, citing an undisclosed medical reason.
Santos could not be reached for comment by deadline Tuesday.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.