Kingston approves COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff and council members

After a lengthy discussion on a COVID-19 vaccination policy on Tuesday night, Kingston City Council moved in favour of a vote to implement the policy. All staff and council members have to declare their vaccination status by Jan. 3, 2022.

If the staff fail to show proof of vaccination, they will not be terminated or put on unpaid leave as other institutions have done in the past. 

Staff who would not show their proof of vaccination will have to attend training sessions to get necessary education about the benefits and importance of vaccination. Additionally, those who are not vaccinated by the stated date would have to undergo the rapid antigen test at this point every week but would not lose their jobs because of that. 

The council members recognize that education and awareness are the core to deal with any matter. However, the severity of the COVID-19 virus has compelled everyone to take measures that ensure the most safety for everyone. 

The motion moved by Councillor Simon Chapelle and seconded by Councillor Ryan Boehme stated to amend the policy and address including council members and city staff in the same approach. 

"My concern is that it has a dangerous precedent of mixing staff and council in one motion. A particular topic, specifically my concern, is a council. I don't believe that we should be mixing staff and councilors," Councilor Chapelle said. 

Councilor Boehme said, "it is important that we keep our individuality as state elected officials." 

In response to the Councilors' remarks, Councilor Stroud, opposing the motion, said that "council members should lead by example. 

Lanie Hurdle, Chief Administrative Officer at City of Kingston, explained that the vaccination policy is unique in the sense that it is not just an administrative policy for the city employees. Otherwise, it would not have come forward to the council. Because it includes everyone, the decision thus requires attention from members of the council. 

After a long debate over the matter, the motion was denied, with nine out of 13 votes favoring the policy, including staff and council members alike.  

As of October, around 90 percent of city workers are fully vaccinated.

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative