Back to News

Advocates call for accessible COVID-19 vaccine plan for Ontario migrant farm workers

Reference: CTV News

TORONTO -- Advocates are raising concerns about temporary migrant workers not having timely access to information about Ontario's plan to offer them COVID-19 vaccines.

A recent letter from a group of medical experts and community service providers outlined some of the issues raised by temporary workers involved in early vaccination efforts, including both lack of notice and opportunities to discuss the process with health professionals.

Some workers did not receive a consent form, the letter said, and others were told their decision about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine could affect their future employment.

"The power imbalance between employers and migrant workers in Ontario agriculture presents unique challenges to obtaining informed consent," the group said.

The letter from the Migrant Worker Health Expert Working Group was sent to public health units covering major farming communities in Ontario.

Among the group's recommendations was including access to consultation with a health professional, advanced notice, language assistance and guaranteed freedom from reprisal.

Stephanie Mayell, a group member and health researcher who helped draft the recommendations, said there must be time built in to ensure workers receive culturally sensitive and accessible information.

"That's something that seems obvious, but it's really difficult, I think, for public health units to think about everything," she said. "In this case, that's something that's really, really needed."

Some 20,000 temporary foreign workers are employed on Ontario farms each year. More than 1,780 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 and three died from the virus... Read More