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Staff vaccination mandate has high success rate for Victoria’s Our Place, Cool Aid

COVID-19 vaccine requirement similar to that for provincial healthcare workers
Only about half a dozen staff members each of Our Place Society and Victoria Cool Aid Society do not yet have a COVID-19 vaccine, following a mandate by both organizations that staff receive it. (Black Press Media file photo)

Coincidentally timed with an identical mandate from the provincial government for its healthcare workers, Victoria housing societies Our Place and Cool Aid have been largely successful in ensuring their staffs are COVID-19 vaccinated.

Over 98 per cent of Our Place Society’s 300 staff were fully vaccinated by the cutoff date of Oct. 28, said CEO Julian Daly.

Cool Aid Society’s vaccine mandate for staff, announced Oct. 19, was adhered to by most of their approximately 380 staff by an Oct. 26 deadline, confirmed CEO Kathy Stinson. Six unvaccinated staff were placed on unpaid leave with the option to receive vaccination and return before the new year, she said.

Daly said Our Place’s mandate was announced in mid-September, before Island Health confirmed dozens of COVID-19 cases had been reported in the Victoria unhoused and temporarily housed communities. That scenario prompted Our Place to temporarily shut down some of its programs.

“The outbreak of COVID in the homeless community further confirms the importance of that (earlier) decision, and the importance of keeping clients and colleagues as safe and healthy as possible,” Daly said.

READ ALSO: Island Health confirms positive COVID-19 cases among community facing homelessness

READ ALSO: Our Place Society in Victoria sends strong message by closing drop-in centre for a day

Contracts with the Island Health Authority and the province partly led to Cool Aid Society’s staff mandate, Stinson added.

“Regardless of where the funding comes from – (Cool Aid staff) could work in buildings funded by Island Health or BC Housing – it just makes sense for us to implement the vaccine mandate organization-wide,” she said. “And it was actually well received by our staff and team.”

Our Place Society’s early introduction of the mandate presented some concern for the housing non-profit.

“At that time, no one else had made the decision to require (staff vaccinations) in our sector,” Daly said. “So there was a certain anxiety about how people might respond … we had some people who were understandably hesitant, and we provided lots of information about vaccines which we felt was important.”

That approach resulted in the majority of initially hesitant people taking steps to get vaccinated, he said, noting that only a half dozen or so people remain unvaccinated.

“I’m proud of my colleagues today,” Daly said. “I think (our vaccine rates) are a testament to their commitment to keeping everyone that they serve safe and healthy.”

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