Winnipeg's civic leaders must be fully immunized by mid-November if they want to work in city hall.
Council voted Wednesday to require elected officials — and their staff — be vaccinated against COVID-19. The decision comes two weeks after the city announced front-line workers, including firefighters and Transit drivers, require full vaccination by Nov. 15.
"We have to be able to be shown as leaders," deputy mayor John Orlikow told council colleagues. "To delay this for another month — we know what happens when we delay health orders for a month. It's too late."
The time frame for the 15 councillors and Mayor Brian Bowman, plus staffers, to be fully vaccinated mirrors the one set for front-line employees. The first dose should come by Sept. 30, and the second no later than Oct. 28.
Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) was the lone vote in opposition.
Santos has previously confirmed she isn't fully vaccinated, citing medical reasons. Earlier this month, she was removed from her role of acting deputy mayor.
"I want to make it abundantly clear: I am not anti-vax," Santos told council Wednesday. "I absolutely support citizens who have chosen to vaccinate themselves, but I also understand those who are not fully vaccinated."
Santos said she has experienced different trauma growing up, including physical and mental abuse. She has also suffered an anaphylactic seizure, Santos said.
Medical conditions or experiences of abuse or discrimination within the health-care system may prevent people from being vaccinated, she said.
"Learning that a person is not inoculated seems to influence the idea that the person is unconcerned about other people or that the person is ideologically opposed to vaccines," Santos said. "Each of these assumptions are leading to harmful consequences and discussions within our community."
Santos said asking for vaccine status means people must share personal health information. She called the mandate divisive, adding there could be legal consequences.
Unvaccinated elected officials and staff will work remotely if they don't meet the deadlines, council voted unanimously.
Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said the timeline should be easy to meet.
"We have handful(s) of contracted staff, and... boards, companies across the city have been doing this with hundreds of staff in the same timelines as we have," she said.
Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) cited overwhelmed hospitals as a reason for as many Winnipeggers to get vaccinated as possible: "Everybody's health is important. We have a responsibility."
— with files from Joyanne Pursaga
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