New data offers first glimpse of COVID-19 vaccination rates in Waterloo Region schools
Just over a week into the new school year, Waterloo Region’s school boards have released COVID-19 vaccination figures for their employees.
The summary covers all staff, trustees and volunteers who have disclosed their immunization status:
- 89.2 per cent of employees and trustees at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board have disclosed their vaccination status
- 80.9 per cent of employees say they are fully vaccinated and 0.2 per cent have a medical exemption for not getting the shot.
- 68 per cent of regular visitors, including volunteers and bus drivers, have submitted their status to the board. 78 per cent say they’ve received two doses while 0.8 percent have a medical exemption.
- 4,592 people are included in the WCDSB vaccination policy.
Vice president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) Waterloo Unit, Patrick Etmanski, believes there’s still room to improve.
“It’s a positive statement that so many are fully vaccinated but we’re still dealing with a case a day in our schools at this point,” Etmanski said. “As much as I have great hope in the vaccinations and the rate of vaccinations, we’re still dealing with cases. We still have a long way to go.”
OECTA stands behind vaccinations but called the idea of making it mandatory a controversial.
“It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not the only answer to this problem. But it seems to be the only answer that the government is willing to put anything behind,” said Etmanski.
Waterloo Region’s public school board reports:
- 69.7 per cent of staff and trustees have disclosed their vaccination status
- 95.4 per cent of staff and trustees who have disclosed their status attest to being fully vaccinated
- 66.5 per cent of all staff and trustees attest to being fully vaccinated and 0.01 per cent have a medical exception.
- 78.9 per cent or regular visitors and volunteers have disclosed their status. 63.9 per cent say they are fully immunized with proof of vaccination. 14.4 per cent say they received both doses, but did not provide documentation. 0.01 per cent have a medical exemption.
- 9,851 people fall under the public board’s vaccination policy.
About 30 per cent of staff have not yet disclosed their vaccination status.
“In a board of 10,000 employees approximately that’s a lot of employees who have not completed it,” said Jeff Pelich, vice president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Waterlooo Region.
Education Director with the WRDSB, jeewan chanicka, said the board is working to keep workers and students safe.
“We’re still waiting on disclosure for some staff,” chanicka said. “We’re working in alignment with our union partners as well as public health to try and make sure that we can follow the best implementation plan to be able to make sure that the environment is as safe as possible for all students.”
As of Wednesday, all Ontario school boards must publicly post vaccine status data for staff and third party service providers on a monthly basis.
Both the public and Catholic boards said those who don’t disclose their status will be subjected to rapid testing twice a week, as per provincial government’s rules.
“Individual who have not filled out the survey one way or the other would be treated as an individual who is unvaccinated and therefore be held to the requirement for testing," said, Loretta Notten, the Director of Education with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.
Officials with both boards said they are looking for more direction from the province on mandatory vaccinations.
“We’re following the guidance of the ministry on this. You can imagine there’s a lot of pieces that are connected to it,” said chanicka.
The details on what that will look like and any possible penalties are still up in the air.
“All of those things are still unanswered so that’s created a climate of fear and uncertainty, which is not really helpful at the beginning of the year, said Pelich.
Both school boards plan to post weekly updates on the vaccination rates of staff and trustees online.