'The time for accommodation is gone': Kamloops council quarrels over vaccine policy | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'The time for accommodation is gone': Kamloops council quarrels over vaccine policy

Kamloops city council has not mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for themselves nor has a policy crossed the table yet, but there is already conflicting opinions.

Councillor Denis Walsh would not support a vaccine policy and has told his colleagues that he would not be vaccinated, but other councillors have expressed that they should implement their own policy to lead by example.

"I don't think you should twist yourself in knots trying to accommodate the dissenters," Mayor Ken Christian said.

City staff are currently drafting the details for vaccine requirements on their own employees, which may include options like regular COVID-19 testing for the few who are not vaccinated.

Christian said a similar requirement for council is possible, but the community charter is unclear on how it could be enforced.

READ MORE: West Kelowna joins growing list of Interior cities requiring staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Through a council resolution, they could place a requirement for people entering civic buildings to show their proof of vaccines, for example, but council also restricts how many meetings a sitting councillor can miss in a year.

Councillors can attend meetings virtually, but it does not count toward the current policy, which restricts them from missing any more than four consecutive meetings in a year.

"I think the time for accommodation is gone," Christian said. "There's no duty to accommodate one individual at the expense of the majority."

Christian is also a director for the Thompson Nicola Regional District, which is exploring a policy that would require the board of directors to be vaccinated in order to attend their meetings.

Fellow director and mayor of Cache Creek, Santo Talarico, has stated his own opposition to the potential policy.

READ MORE: Non-urgent surgery delays in Interior Health due to high COVID numbers, unvaccinated health workers

"Essentially I feel there's an obligation as community leaders to do right thing to protect the health and safety of our community," Coun. Sadie Hunter said. "Policies like these are part of a larger social contract."

Hunter, who is in her final day of quarantine after becoming infected with COVID-19 at The Blue Grotto in Kamloops, said the fact that she is double vaccinated and was still infected only encourages her that the rest of the public should follow suit.

"It was a lesson and reminder for everyone that it's really important to follow health guidelines, but it can still find you," she said. "There was no guarantee people wouldn't get sick (once vaccinated). The rationale was you reduce the load on the healthcare system."

She's dismayed, however, that vaccinations against a global pandemic have become "politicized."

Coun. Dale Bass is holding out hope that Walsh will "join the team."

If Walsh does not change his mind, however, Bass will look forward to concessions that will still allow for him to be in the room but at a further distance in case there is a risk for infection.

READ MORE: Why 1/3 of new COVID cases are in people who are fully vaccinated

Bass continues is currently on chemotherapy, after being diagnosed with cancer in 2017, but points to her larger concern that continued viral transmission puts those at risk of hospitalization in greater jeopardy.

"In the end, I do believe the general public will make a decision about whether (Walsh) is right or wrong," she said.

Walsh did not respond to requests for comment from iNFOnews.ca regarding his position on a vaccination policy for city council.

David Trawin, the chief administrative officer for the City of Kamloops, is expected to present a report that will detail the vaccination policy set forth for employees at the next council meeting, Nov. 2.

For now, the policy will require employees, contractors and volunteers to confirm they are fully vaccinated by Dec. 15.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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