As we gradually return to organized activities, many Sport Organizations are looking to update their COVID protocols for their employees, volunteers, participants, and spectators. A key issue is whether to introduce a mandatory vaccination requirement into return to play protocols as well as workplace health and safety policies.
While several provincial governments have issued proof of vaccination requirements, the scope, application, and requirements of these orders vary widely by jurisdiction. Further, there remains significant debate regarding the scope and legality of these orders as well as validity of vaccination policies implemented by employers and Sport Organizations.
Before Sport Organizations introduce a mandatory vaccination policy, it is important to consider the following issues:
- There is no one size fits all solution, especially when dealing with COVID 19 measures. When developing a mandatory vaccination policy, it is important to evaluate the circumstances of the workplace or venue and ensure that any policy is appropriately tailored to the specific situation.
- The considerations and obligations of an employer/Sport Organization can differ significantly from the obligations owed to athletes and spectators.
- Requirements for Youth and Unvaccinated Participants
- Currently there are no approved vaccines for youth under twelve years old. Sport Organizations must consider the requirements for these youth as well as adult participants who are unable to be vaccinated.
- Youth exemptions are available in some provinces; however, “youth” is defined differently by different provinces. In Ontario, youth participating in the sport are not required to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination however, spectators of the same age group are required to be vaccinated.
- In some situations, the standard rules for game/match play may have to be amended to comply with applicable COVID 19 protocols.
- Human Rights considerations
- Provincial human rights legislation prohibits making a distinction or treating of a person or a group of people differently based on certain protected characteristics. In some circumstances, an individual may have valid grounds for refusing to receive a vaccination, such as for medical or religious reasons.
- A strict vaccination policy that does not contemplate possible exemptions and accommodations will likely violate these statutory protections.
- Retentions of information and Privacy concerns
- In most provinces, an individual’s vaccination status is considered confidential and personal health information. It is important that Sport Organizations confirm any applicable legislative requirements regarding the collection and retention of this information and take appropriate measures to protect this information.
- For example, the recently announced Ontario regulations prohibit the retention of any information related to proof of vaccination status where New Brunswick has allowed Sport Organizations to maintain a list of the vaccination status of their participants.
- Proof of vaccination vary widely from province to province, exempting certain activities from mandatory vaccination while requiring participants in other activities to provide proof of their vaccination status.
- Given the range and the continual evolution of these orders, it is important that Sport Organizations stay up to date on any vaccination policy developments and ensure that any policies are amended to remain compliant.
As Sport Organizations navigate the latest evolution of the COVID 19 pandemic, it is critical to remain flexible to adjust to the continually evolving circumstances.
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