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Horwath walks back comments opposing mandatory vaccinations for education workers: “I was wrong”

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Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath reversed her position opposing mandatory vaccinations for education workers Thursday in the face of heavy criticism.

“On Wednesday, I made a mistake suggesting a mandatory vaccine policy during a global pandemic should take a back seat to charter rights,” she said in a statement.

“I regret the comment. I was wrong.”

Horwath has said her party supports regular rapid virus tests for unvaccinated education workers before they come to work.

She told CBC in an interview Wednesday that she considers it a charter right for people to refuse the vaccine.

I fully support mandatory vaccination of health care and education workers, based on science and public health. I should have made that position clearer, much earlier.
 
I made a mistake yesterday raising charter rights. I was wrong.
 
½ #onpoli pic.twitter.com/LFV0bTxKPF

— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) August 5, 2021

“I don’t take lightly people’s charter rights, and so that’s why what we’re saying is rapid tests, or your vaccination status and being vaccinated,” Horwath said.

“We can’t simply ignore that there are folks that are not going to get vaccinated and I don’t think that the right thing to do is just to shut them out.”

A day later, she issued a video statement to walk back the comments.

“I fully support mandatory vaccination in health care and education, based on science and public health priorities,” she said.

“I should have made that position clearer, much earlier, in support of the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us: seniors, people with disabilities, people who are sick, and children who can’t yet get their vaccines.”

Premier Doug Ford has said he won’t mandate vaccinations for workers, saying he thinks it’s a constitutional right to refuse the shot. He’s also said he doesn’t support a proof-of-vaccination system that would allow people to participate in certain activities if they take the shots.

His government’s back-to-school plan, released this week, doesn’t require COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible teachers or students.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has been calling for mandatory COVID-19 shots for education workers ahead of the September return to school. He’s also supported mandatory shots for health workers, a position shared by several professional groups representing healthcare workers.

Del Duca said Thursday that Horwath and Ford are appealing to “anti-vax” voters and says Horwath’s stance is disappointing for progressives in Ontario.

“I don’t want anyone to lose their job, but it’s the right thing to do,” Del Duca said of mandatory shots, adding that he thinks the policy is reasonable and responsible.

He said such a policy could involve outreach to help make vaccine-hesitant workers more comfortable about vaccination, and some people could be redeployed into other roles if they don’t take the shots.

“It is the kind of thing that we need our leaders to do at this critically important moment. I will continue to push for this, I will continue to tell Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath they’re both wrong.”

The head of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario said on Twitter that Horwath is getting “bad advice.”

#MandatoryVaccination is CRITICAL for all HCWs in Ont!

On @GlobalNational, our CEO @DorisGrinspun says: “If we are going to make good for this winter, we better get on with it now.” #COVID19

“We need mandatory vaccination for ALL healthcare workers and education workers unless they have a medical exemption. PERIOD,” Doris Grinspun wrote on Thursday.

In a since-deleted tweet, federal Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus also criticized Horwath’s stance.

“I just wrote to the party and told them they better push her to walk back her vaccination comments because the (Liberals) will drive a truck over our party for such idiocy,” he wrote on Wednesday.

Horwath has previously said she supports adding COVID-19 vaccines to the list of required immunizations for children to attend school.

Eighty-one per cent of adults in Ontario had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Thursday and 72 per cent were fully vaccinated.

The province, school boards and unions representing teachers and education workers told The Canadian Press last month that they are not keeping data on the vaccination rate among education staff.

Ontario reported 213 COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 14 deaths from the virus, though 12 of the deaths occurred in previous months and are now being reported due to a data cleaning initiative.

According to Public Health Ontario, from the end of June to the end of July, unvaccinated people were eight times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people 60 and older were 15 times more likely to be hospitalized than their fully vaccinated counterparts.

This content was originally published here.

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