This just in: Ontario’s Medical Officers of Health have come together to demand mandatory inoculation at all colleges and universities.
That means “full vaccination against be required for all individuals involved in any in-person activities on campus (students, staff, faculty, contractors and visitors).”
Is this a clarion call from medical doctors with full authority, at long last? Not so fast.
This latest public exhortation for vaccination comes from the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health, which speaks on behalf of all 34 public health units across the province. But their collective call for new requirements is not to be confused with the conspicuous silence from the chief medical officer of health who outranks them, Dr. Kieran Moore.
Before being elevated to Ontario’s highest medical perch, Dr. Moore was part of that council of 34 physicians, back when he ran Kingston’s health unit. But he is no longer in that position, nor is he on the same page.
As of last June, Dr. Moore presides over the province at large. And with his new writ, he won’t commit — wedded as he is to the proposition of being half-pregnant on COVID-19 vaccines.
Thanks to his new working relationship with Premier , Dr. Moore has lost his voice. While both of them proclaim fidelity to the people of this province, they seem reluctant to accept an obvious truth:
You cannot be half-pregnant, especially not in mid-pandemic. The problem with being half-pregnant is that you are trying to have it both ways yet satisfying no one.
As an example, consider this contradiction from Ford and his chief medical officer of health as COVID-19 overwhelms us:
Everyone should be vaccinated. And yet everyone need not be vaccinated.
Or ponder this proposition from the premier and the good doctor:
We must do everything possible to prevent lockdowns. But not the one proven thing — mandatory vaccinations — that would preclude lockdowns.
This disconnect on inoculations is intellectual dishonesty. It is also political cowardice and policy incoherence.
Perhaps that’s why the fantasy of being half-pregnant is not recognized in the medical literature yet endures in our political nomenclature.
Ford’s inability to lead the way is unsurprising, given his mealy-mouthed meandering for months on end — from mask mandates to vaccine requirements. Dr. Moore’s timidity is no less a disappointment, given the high expectations over his appointment.
In the same week that the province’s 34 public health units were clamouring for mandatory campus rules — with nearly 1 million people “required to submit proof of vaccination” — Dr. Moore was stubbornly with the full weight of his office. With waves of students converging on university and college campuses over the next few days, and a fourth wave of COVID-19 looming, his reticence is matched only by the premier’s hesitance.
The trend lines are inexorable. As long as our vaccination uptake stalls, infections will soar and lockdowns will follow.
That’s why have recently embraced vaccine passports as a first step in validating inoculations. That’s why the federal government has promised an international verification framework.
That none of these systems are yet in place is an indictment of our , but at least these other governments are getting with the program. Ontario’s refusal to even explore these options is bizarrely self-defeating.
“We aren’t doing it — simple as that,” Ford announced last month. “We aren’t going to have a split society.”
All these weeks later, it has become painfully obvious that society is increasingly split — and sliced and diced and divided along demographic lines.
For the young adults heading to university and college this year, and the older adults who keep those post-secondary institutions running, the reluctance to embrace science is confounding. It is also worrying for parents like me who are dropping off their kids on campus, and seeing up close just how closely they’ll be congregating with other students and staff in classrooms and labs.
Without coherent guidance from the government, public institutions and private businesses are making it up as they go along — or making do by doing nothing. That leaves workplaces unsafe, campuses unclear and companies uncertain.
Municipalities are also at sea, imploring Ford to set a province-wide standard to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates. The premier keeps ducking, just as he did last year by refusing to make masks mandatory, instead fobbing it off on local councils (he dutifully donned a mask in public, but without having to wear the decision).
That’s not leadership. That’s showmanship.
To its credit, Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce has taken the initiative — seeking legal guidance on how its member employers can deal with the challenges. To their discredit, some labour leaders are defending vocal anti-vax dissenters instead of advocating for the collective rights of all union members to a safe workplace — a principle that cannot be compromised.
Against that backdrop, we need a government that can backstop the province. Instead, Ontario’s leadership vacuum has become the perfect incubator for a pandemic — and a leading indicator for inaction.
Martin Regg Cohn is a Toronto-based columnist focusing on Ontario politics and international affairs for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: