WHITEHORSE — Yukon's premier has announced a vaccine mandate for government employees, including front-line workers in the health-care system and teachers, but the territory has not yet determined any consequences for those who refuse to comply.
Sandy Silver said Wednesday the employees must get their first vaccine dose by Nov. 30 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 30.
Cabinet ministers will meet this week to consider other details, including whether anyone would be placed on unpaid leave for not meeting the initial deadline.
There won't be any alternatives like COVID-19 tests on the job for anyone who is not vaccinated, Silver said.
"This requirement will also apply to employees of our partner organizations that the government funds to provide services to vulnerable populations," he said.
Ted Hupé, head of the Yukon Teachers' Association, said he met with government officials about a vaccine mandate on Oct. 19 and again on Monday and asked about consequences for the unvaccinated but didn't get any information.
"Even as of Monday there was nothing to share with us," he said. "We were supportive of a vaccine mandate if there were measures put in place that would allow the unvaccinated to still continue their employment, and I mean regular testing and use of (personal protective equipment) and things like physical distancing."
Hupé said the territory doesn't have enough teachers now and a "huge hole" would be created if those who are unvaccinated are put on leave or fired.
An estimated 90 per cent of teachers are vaccinated in Yukon, he said, adding many of those who are not may be prepared to walk off the job.
A spokeswoman for the Yukon Employees' Association said no one was available to speak on the vaccine mandate.
A proof-of-vaccination card based on British Columbia's model is also in the works for those aged 12 and up to access non-essential services.
Silver said the territory is finalizing a list of where the card must be presented, and a Yukon-specific QR code and app are being developed so businesses and organizations can verify vaccination status.
Acting chief medical health officer Dr. Catherine Elliott said the territory recorded 182 new cases of the virus in the first 29 days of October, representing an increase of 125 per cent from the previous month.
Nearly 46 per cent of cases were among fully vaccinated people, but they were protected from severe illness, Elliott said.
Eighty-five per cent of eligible residents aged 12 and up have received both doses of vaccine.
The territory was prioritized for vaccine and provided second shots after four weeks, resulting in most residents getting fully vaccinated earlier than those in other jurisdictions across the country.
Yukon has now increased the interval between shots to eight weeks in order to provide stronger and longer-lasting protection from COVID-19, based on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Elliott said vaccination rates must rise as the pandemic continues.
"Backing down from vaccination now is not going to solve the issue of the risk of getting COVID. And I think we really just need to accept that as part of our new reality of living with COVID-19."
Booster shots are being offered in Yukon to people aged 50 and up as of this week because immunity among older people is declining months after they received their last dose of vaccine.
— By Camille Bains in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Christine Elliott was the medical health officer.