Ontario's top doctor says medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine being granted too frequently
TORONTO -- Ontario’s top public health official says that there needs to be a "review" of the circumstances in which unvaccinated employees in some workplaces are being granted medical exemptions amid evidence pointing to an exemption rate that is hundreds of times higher than it should be.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday that he has heard anecdotal reports from employers with mandates suggesting that the medical exemption rate for employees is between one and two per cent.
But Moore said that medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine should be limited to people who are at risk of a severe allergic reaction to one of its components or people at elevated risk of developing a rare heart condition known as myocarditis.
“If you put those calculations together we should be seeing medical exemptions of around one to five per 100,000. We are seeing a higher number reported by workers and I think it deserves a review,” he said. “Certainly we have tried to educate physicians and nurse practitioners who fill out these forms to make sure there are aware of the two major exemptions.”
Moore’s comments on Tuesday come one day after NDP Leader Andrea Horwath remarked that it was “statistically curious” for two out of the 70 Progressive Conservative MPPs to have been granted medical exemptions to remain unvaccinated, despite the party’s policy.
He did not specifically address the vaccination rate among the PC caucus but did say that efforts have to be undertaken to make physicians and nurse practitioners “better aware of what the true medical exemptions are.”
“It is an ongoing quality improvement initiative on informing them of what the true medical exemptions are,” he said. “I want to ensure that all Ontarians have the benefit of protection of immunization and a false medical exemption or an incorrect one bypasses our ability to protect them. So I would hope these conversations are happening between physician and patient, nurse and patient and the physicians are seeking guidance from their respective college regarding what are the appropriate medical exemptions.”
Ontario has only mandated vaccination for long-term care workers so far though a number of other employers, including about 40 per cent of hospitals, have decided to introduce their own mandatory vaccination policies.