New Brunswick has ended its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for a number of government employees in health care and vulnerable sectors.
The province is calling unvaccinated workers back to facilities at regional health authorities, Extra-Mural/Ambulance NB and corrections roles, according to a government news release late Friday afternoon. They will be required to follow health measures defined by their employer until becoming fully vaccinated.
The change also applies to nursing homes and adult residential facilities licensed by the Department of Social Development.
Workers who are not fully vaccinated were placed on unpaid leave five months ago under the province’s mandate for employees.
Now, all employees are expected to report to work beginning April 11.
The provincial government dropped its vaccination requirement for most workers Monday, but kept measures in place for those in vulnerable settings. With the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions last month, the policy had been under review.
Public Health now recommends three doses as the standard for full vaccination for employees in hospitals and other high-risk sectors.
The head of the New Brunswick Medical Society is urging the public to follow masking, physical distancing and other health guidelines to protect the health care system.
Dr. Mark MacMillan said in a statement that people should stay home when symptomatic to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep hospitals functioning.
“Even though rules requiring vaccination for provincial employees may be relaxing, we strongly encourage all New Brunswickers, especially those who deal with patients and other vulnerable populations, to get fully vaccinated,” he said.
It’s unclear how many employees will be affected by the revised policy. A spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Treasury Board, which released the update, did not immediately respond to questions from CBC News.
The revised policy comes as health-care facilities struggle with staff shortages.
The Vitalité Health Network said 352 workers are off because of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, a 41 per cent spike in eight days. It plans to remain at the red alert level and keep a number of restrictions in place.
Hospitals in Moncton have also seen long patient offload times for ambulances earlier this week.