Q. What are the medical benefits and risks associated with the COVID-19 vaccination?
A. COVID-19 vaccines have a high effectiveness rate. This means that not only do they prevent vaccinated people from getting COVID-19, but they also prevent hospitalizations and intensive care units (ICU) admissions. The risks of getting a bad reaction from the vaccines is very low although some people may get mild reactions like pain at the injection site, some dizziness or feeling tired. These reactions are normal but each person should consult their own physician or NCN public health department to discuss any concerns they may have about the risks versus the benefits based on their own health.
Q. Why should people get vaccinated since even fully vaccinated people are getting COVID-19?
A. The vaccines are not 100% effective although the data to date indicates the effectiveness of all Health Canada approved vaccines is very high. People who are unvaccinated are more likely to be infected and to transmit the COVID-19 virus to others, including to children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The most recent data indicates that even if people who are fully vaccinated contract the virus, their symptoms are not as severe and far fewer people who are fully vaccinated end up hospitalized or in ICU compared to those who are unvaccinated. For example, in early September, only about 6% of the active cases in hospital were fully vaccinated people and none at that time were in ICU. Therefore, a fully vaccinated person is far less likely to be hospitalized or end up in ICU.
Q. What is the relationship between the OICs under the Nisichawayasi Emergency Measures Law and the Community Protection Law?
A. The Emergency Measures Law gives Chief and Council the authority to put different rules in place if there is an emergency like the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the Community Protection Law allows certain amounts of alcohol or cannabis to be transported onto NCN Lands, but when the lockdown went into effect, an Order in Council was issued to over-ride that law due to the pandemic. In normal circumstances, Chief and Council cannot simply over-ride a law but in this situation it can for a limited period of time (in this case during the pandemic).
Q. Are there alternative treatments for COVID-19?
A. Some treatments are that are being used if a person is hospitalized to try to help them get better from COVID-19. Although there are some promising studies on various medications being conducted, there is currently no cure for COVID-19. For example, Merck recently indicated it will be seeking approval for a new medication but that has not yet happened. Some people have also tried using traditional medicines but again it is not clear how effective what impact those are on the disease or its transmission.
Q. Is the vaccine safe given how fast it was developed?
A. Medical professionals and scientists study the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines. To date, the global studies show show that the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines are particularly effective in reducing the severe effects of COVID-19 and helping to reduce person-to-person transmissions. Canada is currently only using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The mRNA technology was developed over many years and was available to be used for COVID-19 which is part of the reason it was developed quickly. Another reason it was developed quickly is that the medical professionals and scientists worked with the vaccine companies to review the data as soon as it became available and are continually reviewing updated data that is being produced globally.
Q. What is the percentage of the community that is vaccinated?
A. By the end of September 2021, about 90% of all persons in the community who are eligible for the vaccine were vaccinated. Eligible persons are currently those who are 12 and older as well as children who are 11 but will turn 12 by December 31, 2021.
Q. When will the vaccine be available for children?
A. Pfizer recently applied to Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for authorization to implement COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. Neither regulatory authority has yet approved, the authorization request as the applications are still under review. The dosage studied in children is about one-third of the amount approved for everyone 12 and older.
In Canada, Pfizer’s application will be reviewed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) which will make recommendations to Health Canada. Health Canada’s medical professionals and scientists will also review all the information before approval. If the data supports the approval then Health Canada will issue the authorization for use in Canada.
The approval timeframe is not certain but it is possible that children 5 to 11 may be able to be vaccinated by the end of the year or early in 2022
Q. Will we need a booster shot of the vaccine?
A. In Canada it is currently recommended that people who live in personal care homes or other congregate living place or who are immune compromised obtain a third shot of the vaccine 6 months after their second dose. A third shot will also be available for those persons who want to travel internationally and require proof that they had two shots of the same vaccine. The United States is currently recommending that anyone over the age of 65 also receive a third shot six months after their second shot. Canada is still considering this issue.
Q. Why is a mandatory COVID-19 policy being implemented?
A. Many governments and private sector employers around the world have begun to implement such policies to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and in communities. Another critical reason is to try to prevent future lockdowns so we can keep reducing the restrictions required to keep our community safe.
Q. Do other employers have mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies or is NCN the only one?
A. Yes, many employers have implemented or have announced they will be implementing such policies including the federal government, provincial governments, municipal governments, and private sector employers.
Q. How does the policy work?
A. The policy requires all employees to disclose and provide proof of vaccination by October 8, 2021. Employees who are unvaccinated will be given until October 18, 2021 to get their first dose and until November 19, 2021 to get their second dose. During this time, anyone who is not vaccinated or who fails to disclose and provide proof of their vaccination status must be tested up to 3 times a week and provide proof of a negative test before they will be allowed into the workplace. Anyone who refuses to provide proof of vaccination status or be tested will be placed on an UNPAID administrative leave. Each person’s employment status will be reviewed and a decision will be made about their situation.
Q. What happens if an Employee does not want to get vaccinated?
A. They will be placed on an UNPAID administrative leave and following review, their employment could be terminated but that is not the goal of the policy. The purpose of these types of policies is to encourage people to get vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Q. What are the exemptions from being vaccinated?
A. The exemptions to date relate to a narrow number of bona fide medical reasons.
Q. What is a bona fide medical exemption?
A. The Manitoba Vaccination Task Force has indicated that a medical specialist and the Taskforce have verified that the person:
(a) had a severe reaction after the first dose of the vaccine, such as myocarditis or Guillain-Barre syndrome;
(b) is currently receiving treatment that affects their ability to mount an immune defence; and
(c) had a severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose that cannot be managed by the Health Sciences Centre Allergy Clinic.
Q. What will happen if an employee can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons?
A. Human Rights legislation requires such employees to be accommodated. The Policy indicates that in such circumstances an employee will be accommodated. The individual employee will provide the required medical information to HR which will be verified and then the person will be able to continue coming to work while observing infection prevention measures. The Vaccine Taskforce announced that it is developing a process for persons who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons to obtain a card similar to the vaccination card.
Q. What proof is required that a person is vaccinated?
A. A QR Code and/or a Provincial vaccination card.
Q. Who do we get proof of vaccination from?
A. From the Province but the Wellness Centre can assist you to get your proof of vaccination.
Q. Will the NCN vaccination card be accepted?
A. It will be accepted until the Manitoba QR Code and/or Provincial vaccination card is obtained. NCN developed its own system in the spring before the Manitoba system was in place but separate NCN cards will not be issued after the end of October as by then everyone should be able to obtain their QR code and/or Provincial vaccination card.
Q. Can each department/organization be provided with a list of who is already vaccinated?
A. No, public health can’t provide lists of this personal health information to other NCN departments. It can assist individuals obtain their own information so it can be disclosed to the employee’s employer.
Q. How do we get proof?
A. Shared Health Manitoba will provide confirmation of dates of vaccination. The Province of Manitoba will provide a QR Code and/or a vaccination card. The Family and Community Wellness Centre can assist people obtain their proof of vaccination.
Q. When will testing three times a week for unvaccinated employees start?
A. As of October 12, 2021 as employees have up to Friday, October 8th to provide their vaccination status to their HR Director.
Q. Where will testing take place?
A. A rapid antigen test can be obtained through the NCN Family and Community Wellness Centre. If a PCR test is required it can be obtained at the NCN Nursing Station or at a provincial test site in Thompson or Winnipeg.
Q. What is the difference between a rapid test and a PCR test?
A. 1. Antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test) – This test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. It can be done in a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results is usually very quick and results can usually be reported within 15 minutes.
2. PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) – This type of testing is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even for those who have no symptoms. The test can be done in at the Nursing Station, a provincial test site or a hospital. Turnaround time is longer, generally in the 2 to 3 day range but results can be in as little as 24 hours. When demand is high, results can take longer.
Q. How long does it take to get the rapid test results?
A. About 15 minutes.
Q. Will vaccinated employees also have to be tested?
A. NCN public health is working with provincial health officials to implement random testing including people who are vaccinated. This is called surveillance testing it helps to detect infection and transmission levels in the community, of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who may be asymptomatic. More information will be provided about this as it becomes available.
Q. Will all new hires have to be vaccinated?
A. Yes, as of October 1, 2021.
Q. Can people who got two different doses of the vaccine be hired?
A. Yes, as long as the two doses have been approved by Health Canada as some people received a dose of Pfizer and Moderna and some received a dose of one of those and AstraZeneca. The mixing of COVID-19 vaccine doses is approved in Canada.
Q. Do people who attend workshops or meetings have to be tested?
A. In most instances they will have to be tested unless an emergency situation is involved. According to the most recent NCN Order in Council, anyone who travels out of province whether vaccinated or unvaccinated will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of proposed entry to the community and will also need to isolate for 10 days. Anyone is unvaccinated and travels anywhere in Manitoba will also be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of proposed re-entry to the community.
Q. What is the legal foundation for this policy – NCN Constitution (Othasowewin) Canadian Constitution, or Canadian law?
A. It is a combination of all of these as the Canadian Constitution sets out authority for the federal and provincial governments for employment and public health matters and NCN’s Constitution as well as the Land Code provide authority for NCN Laws to be enacted. Employment policies flow from all of these.
Q. Will people who refuse to be vaccinated qualify for EI?
A. Service Canada will make this determination not NCN.
Q. Do employees who are fully immunized have to continue wearing masks?
A. Yes, all employees will have to continue wearing masks at the present time as Manitoba and the rest of Canada are in the 4th wave of the pandemic. As more people get vaccinated hopefully this restriction can be lifted soon. Public health officials also recommend that frequent hand washing, physical distancing, frequent sanitizing of work, home and vehicles continue to take place and that the number of contacts be limited in order to try to minimize the impact of this 4th wave.