Thirteen days ago, the Ontario, Canada government’s department of community and social services halted the vaccination of thousands of infants, according to CNN affiliate CTV. Citing a measles outbreak that began in July 2017, the department, which acts as a contractor to the city of Toronto, took action against 248 of its employees who lacked the proper documentation for flu and whooping cough vaccines.
“They, in all likelihood, wouldn’t even have received this exemption had it not been for the actual contracting of the disease,” said Danny Lau, the director of public health in Toronto.
Although those five groups — infants, pregnant women, people 50 and older, smokers and someone who’s not immunized in a healthcare setting — make up nearly 92 percent of the individuals who received the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines, most of those affected work for the city’s public transportation agency. The affected employees, who are employed by the Toronto Transit Commission, will not be paid for the time they had to take off without pay.
“Our health workers are people who act as guardians to so many and so that trust, that vigilance, that caring is what allows us to provide a safe and good service,” said David Jensen, the acting vice president of human resources for the transit commission. “So how do we, in this instance, have a health unit’s vaccine executive, the testing administrator … and the people who are advising them, not be able to deliver on that trust that the city has over those frontline workers?”
“When you’re essentially reducing the work force and then not paying them for it, it causes financial hardship, both from a personal perspective and from a professional perspective,” he added.
Lau believes that there are still several hundreds of employees whose records will have to be reviewed in order to determine if their vaccinations are valid. CNN reports that up to 185,000 Canadian children were left unprotected due to the “crossover” of the measles and mumps.
The CTV investigation also revealed that many who received an exemption for the vaccines are not even qualified to do so. As the New York Times reports, some employees who receive exemptions for just one vaccine are prohibited from becoming the CEO of a company, leaving the jobless 1,400 people. Still, 29 of the 267 workers examined at the transit commission listed religious beliefs as a reason for not being vaccinated. “I want to help keep this program moving forward,” Jensen said. “I want to see my team members continue to feel like the most valued group of professionals, and if that’s going to be in part by having the employees be up-to-date on their vaccines, then we have to deal with it.”
It was reported on Wednesday that two refugees fleeing conflict were hospitalized in Quebec after contracting measles — a disease that, according to CTV, has resulted in 50 deaths in Canada over the past two years. Nearly four thousand infants are believed to have been exposed to the disease over the past several weeks, and the children in question are “at-risk for serious health complications including encephalitis or brain damage.” According to CNN, many health organizations across the U.S. will not tolerate their members to lie about vaccination status.