As its vaccination policy came into effect, the NWT government on Wednesday shared a list of vaccine proof compliance broken down by department.
In general, GNWT workers don’t face mandatory vaccination to keep their jobs but must from now on either submit proof of vaccination or agree to wear a mask and take regular Covid-19 tests.
Requirements vary slightly in some areas. The GNWT on Wednesday gave no indication of the number of staff placed on unpaid leave – if any – for failure to comply.
Finance minister Caroline Wawzonek, whose department oversees human resources and the government’s vaccination policy, has said the policy will evolve over time. In particular, once a federally supplied stock of Covid-19 tests runs out, Wawzonek has suggested her government may place the cost of testing on employees who choose tests instead of vaccination.
As of first thing Wednesday, the GNWT said 81.2 percent of employees had submitted verified proof of vaccination – a number roughly in line with the finance minister’s expectation ahead of the November 30 initial deadline.
By comparison, across the NWT as a whole, 84 percent of adult residents are fully vaccinated.
In total, 5,487 staff submitted their vaccine proof. There were 1,271 people who chose not to do so.
By far the least compliant agency in the GNWT numbers published on Wednesday was the health division of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency. In that workplace, 48 percent of staff – 66 people – supplied vaccine proof.
That number illustrates a concern Wawzonek had expressed last week: that if vaccination were mandatory, the number of layoffs would be significant enough to shut down or seriously hinder some branches of government. More than half of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency’s health positions would have been declared vacant this week (though it can also be argued that mandatory vaccination would have boosted those numbers as some people sought to keep their jobs).
The territory’s various education councils except YK1 and Yellowknife Catholic Schools are next, at 70 percent, followed by the Legislative Assembly, which mustered vaccination proof from 50 of its 70 staff. The territory’s MLAs have separately passed a motion requiring that all territorial politicians be fully vaccinated.
At the other end of the scale, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs achieved a 97-percent vaccine proof submission rate. Only three of 107 staff chose not to submit such proof by the end of November 30.
The departments of education and finance each achieved 93-percent submission rates.
The territory’s health authority was mid-table with a rate of 80 percent.
After Wawzonek earlier refused to place a timeline on her next review of the territory’s vaccination policy, the finance minister’s department on Wednesday said such a review would take place in the next six months.
“This policy will continue to be updated as required and as reasonable given the evolving nature of the pandemic, vaccine availability, and government and public health authority direction,” the department stated.
There remains no publicly available information about when the testing of employees who did not submit vaccination proof will begin.
“Given the realities of test kit procurement and logistical challenges in distributing kits to remote communities, the GNWT will implement testing requirements community-by-community,” a Department of Finance news release read.
“Implementation dates will be shared at a later date.”