The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) welcomes news that the province is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to everyone over 18 years of age as of Monday (Dec. 20). Previously, the government announced those over 18 had to wait until Jan. 4.
“Omicron is explosive,” says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO. “Today’s tally of 1,808 infections and another nine deaths is alarming and vaccination offers the best protection against the galloping spread of Omicron. This is why we urge every Ontarian who is eligible to get vaccinated, and for all those who already have, get your booster shot.”
Grinspun says she is also pleased Premier Ford is making millions of rapid antigen tests provided by the federal government available for free at various locations in communities across the province. This is another crucial step to fight the exponential case increases of Omicron. RNAO’s CEO adds that “efforts to lower capacity limits are insufficient, and missing in the announcement altogether are other urgent public health measures that RNAO and epidemiologists have been calling for.” These urgent measures include:
- making N-95 masks available immediately to all health-care workers across the system, starting with those in long-term care homes and retirement homes – given that COVID-19 is airborne
- mandating vaccinations (three doses) for all health-care workers and all education staff
- making public health units responsible for providing vaccine waivers to relieve family physicians and nurse practitioners from that burden, and incorporating these waivers into the QR system
- imposing additional capacity limits for public venues and private gatherings, and reinforcing the need for vaccine verification in public venues
- repealing Bill 124 immediately to retain nurses in Ontario’s health system
Grinspun says, “The shortfall of RNs is already compromising patient care and hospitals will not be able to cope with surges in intensive care units if these expert professionals continue to leave hospitals because of Bill 124.” This is why RNAO has repeatedly “urged Premier Ford and his government to understand the magnitude of the situation in critical care and that the pandemic has taken on a new urgency. Repeal this bill to retain RNs or risk a hospital collapse. The impact on Ontarians requiring both COVID-19 and non-COVID critical care services will be tragic.”
RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth also urges aggressive action to avoid even more dangerous variants in the future. She echoed the World Health Organization’s plea that “the emergence of the Omicron variant is the result of global vaccine inequity. The only way to stop the virus from mutating is to stop it running rampant among unvaccinated populations in poor and vulnerable countries.” “The federal government must forcefully act to address global vaccine inequity,” says Hoffarth.
Hoffarth adds, “That’s why RNAO is labeling the Omicron variant as the #VaccineInjusticeVariant. If there is no vaccine equity, there is no health for all.” She stresses that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must act now. “Canada must lead in the effort to make vaccines available to everyone around the world now – not in a year or two. If everyone around the world is not safe, no one is safe.”
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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