As access to COVID-19 booster doses is expanded across Canada, some companies with vaccination mandates are having conversations about whether the additional doses will be a requirement for employees.
Much of that hinges on discussions underway at the federal level over whether the definition of "fully vaccinated" may expand to include another dose.
That is leaving some companies with vaccination policies in limbo.
Chandos Construction, which has dozens of sites across Canada, has a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for its employees.
"The question is, when does the policy include boosters?" said company president Tim Coldwell.
Coldwell says the company will keep a close ear to what different levels of government say.
– Tim Coldwell
Today that's two shots and at some point in the future it might be three.
"We've taken a view [that] the federal government and the provincial government's definition of 'fully vaccinated' is what we're going to go with. Today that's two shots and at some point in the future it might be three," said Coldwell.
"When that occurs, we'll require that."
Currently, a person is considered fully vaccinated if they have two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
However, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is reviewing emerging evidence that suggests a third shot should be considered part of the "primary series" — that a person shouldn't be considered fully vaccinated until they've had three doses of an mRNA vaccine.
On Sunday, federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos hinted on CBC's that the definition of "fully vaccinated" could expand to require a third dose.
"Probably. Almost certainly because that's how the history of vaccination proceeds — with vaccines having limited time during which they are fully effective," Duclos said.
James Lingwood, who specializes in labour and employment law at the firm McLennan Ross, says expanding the definition could mean some companies will have to revise their policies.
"If they're in the situation where their policy spells out what it means to be fully vaccinated and [it] doesn't dovetail with what the government's saying, in that sort of a situation, the employer's going to have to look at rewriting its policy, notifying its staff," Lingwood said.
Health policy expert Cheryl Camillo at the University of Regina says NACI is "doing the right job" by reviewing what qualifies for a full vaccination series.
"They're being careful in reviewing the scientific evidence," she said.
She argues that it is a good sign if the goalposts for what is considered fully vaccinated keep moving.
"Our public health authorities are following the latest science," she said.
"There is such a strong investment in science to protect us that it is evolving to take in the latest experience that comes from around the world as to what makes us safest."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julia Wong is a senior reporter based in Edmonton.
With files from John Paul Tasker
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca