Vaccines & Rapid Testing

Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect you and those around you from serious illnesses like COVID-19. By providing information about COVID-19 vaccination and establishing supportive policies and practices, employers can help increase vaccine uptake among essential workers. 

Effective September 22, 2021, Ontario will require patrons to provide ID and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to access certain businesses and settings. Learn more about Ontario’s Proof of Vaccination Policy​ below.

Also found on this page is information about local Rapid Testing programs which provide FREE COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Testing Kits for businesses with fewer than 150 employees.

Vaccination & Workplaces

Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health strongly recommends that local employers enact a COVID-19 workplace vaccination policy to protect your employees and your customers from COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Read the letter issued August 30 from Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health.

Promoting COVID-19 vaccine uptake is a critical piece in helping reduce COVID-19 workplace outbreaks and strengthen confidence for a safer return to work. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best ways to protect your workplace from the risks of COVID-19. It is safe and highly effective at reducing virus spread and protecting against serious illness.

As an employer, you can encourage employees to get vaccinated by creating a supportive environment that make vaccination easy, and sharing COVID-19 vaccine information from credible sources. COVID-19 vaccination provides a strong layer of protection for your employees, their families and the broader community.

Note: The information provided in this document does not contain legal advice and should not be relied on or treated as legal advice. Those for whom these recommendations are intended should seek their own legal advice to address their specific workplace circumstances.

Visit the City of Hamilton’s Vaccination & Workplaces page for full details on how to develop a vaccination policy for your workplace – including steps and key components.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), with guidance from legal experts at McCarthy Tétrault, released Vax-Pass Tenets, a proof-of-vaccination framework to support reopening plans for Ontario private sector businesses. 

The Framework outlines five guiding principles for private sector businesses to adopt in the development of their independent proof-of-vaccination frameworks in the absence of a domestic system.

Implementing proof-of-vaccination will incentivize more people to get vaccinated, allow businesses to safely reopen and mitigate against the risk of further lockdowns. Public health restrictions, such as capacity limits, could then be modified accordingly based on the lower risk involved with close contact among fully vaccinated individuals, achieving the dual purpose of safe community engagement and productive economic recovery.

The Vax-Pass Tenets provide businesses with five principles to consider:

  1. Safety: Businesses must take all steps reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of their workforce and place of business.
  2. Science: Vax-pass programs should be consistent with current science and public health recommendations on COVID-19.
  3. Accommodation: Businesses must provide human rights-related accommodation to the point of undue hardship.
  4. Privacy: Businesses should use the least intrusive mechanism to verify vaccination status.
  5. Transparency: Businesses should engage in clear and ongoing dialogue with employees and customers to manage understanding and expectations and educate stakeholders about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination.

Read the Vax-Pass Tenets.

Hamilton Public Health has put together a list of frequently asked questions & concerns, as well as additional resources to support vaccination. Click here to learn more.

Given the overwhelming volume of information available on vaccines, the information below (kindly provided by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce) provides companies of all sizes with a single focal point for the information they need to know as employers and the resources they can use to reassure and encourage their employees to get vaccinated.

Knowing the facts about vaccines is critical, which is not always easy given the breadth of resources out there. Vaccines have been robustly tested in clinical trials around the world to confirm their safety and efficacy. There are a number of resources that can provide businesses the facts on vaccines, which will ultimately equip owners and operators to engage their employees.

COVID-19 vaccines authorized in Canada is the Government of Canada’s primary resource page for up-to-date information about the vaccines authorized in Canada.

Vaccine development and approval in Canada is a resource that explains the rigorous scientific process involved in developing a new vaccine and conducting clinical trials as well as the process Health Canada follows to review and approve vaccines. There is also a video available on vaccine development and approval.

Below are Health Canada’s resources for each authorized vaccine, including how the vaccine works, how it is administered, possible side effects and vaccine safety after authorization:

Vaccines are very safe, but as with all medicines, there is the potential for side effects after administration. Possible side effects for COVID-19 vaccines are very minor and may include redness, soreness or swelling on the arm that received the shot, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills and mild fever.

Read more about vaccine safety and possible side effects.

There are active ways employers can help their workforce get vaccinated since it is ultimately the collection of individual and company-level decisions that make a difference. Depending on your company’s financial capacity, there are several practical things your company can do to help your employees get vaccinated:

  • Offer paid time off to any employee to get vaccinated. Potentially as much as four to six hours depending where vaccine clinics are located.
  • Provide a transportation voucher (i.e. Uber/Lyft gift card, bus pass) to help cover your employees’ transportation costs to and from a vaccine site.
  • Reimburse the employees’ childcare expenses during their vaccine appointments up to a certain amount.
  • Offer internet access or language support services to help employees schedule their appointment when it becomes available.
  • Provide information to your employees on the local public health or provincial vaccine timelines via email or printouts on a staff board in a common area.
  • Offer paid leave of one to two days if needed after vaccination.

Companies should also start thinking about how to appropriately collect vaccine KPIs amongst their workforce while respecting the privacy of their employees. One option could be undertaking voluntary surveys to understand whether their workforce has received one or two doses of the vaccine, if they intend to receive the vaccine or if they prefer to not disclose.

It is also critical to manage expectations for those who get vaccinated with their first or second dose. You should ensure your employees can expect public health guidance to continue to focus on handwashing, masks and physical distancing. This will help manage expectations and reduce any issues with workplace tension between those who are vaccinated and those who are not.

Whether by staff meetings, emails or casual 1:1 conversations, employers have countless touchpoints every day to speak with their employees about vaccines. The choice to get vaccinated is ultimately with the individual, but the conversations you have will affect not only your employees but also the information they share with their friends and family about vaccines.

These are the top tips for talking to your employees, which have been adapted from the Health Action Alliance:

  • Listening Is Key: You need to have a conversation with your staff rather than a debate. Their decision to get vaccinated is theirs to make, which should always be acknowledged. Focus on being inviting and respectful and encourage them to look at information from respected sources.
  • Lead with Empathy: It is important to acknowledge people’s concerns given it has been a difficult time for Canadians during the pandemic. It is okay for people — even you — to have questions about vaccines given the rate at which news changes and the wide number of voices in media and social media. Do not be condescending. Instead, support your staff taking time off for their vaccination or helping their family members.
  • Facts about Safety Matter: Speak in plain language with people. Provide facts from reputable sources but don’t make up what you don’t know or use information from unreputable sources, particularly on social media. You also cannot provide medical advice to people’s unique health circumstances.
  • Be Authentic: Share why you have decided to get vaccinated and why it is important for you and your family.

To download a one-page Talking to Your Employees about Vaccines Guide, click here.

Proof of Vaccination Policy

Requiring proof of vaccination will help increase vaccination rates, protect individuals in higher-risk indoor settings, and keep businesses open. 

Effective at 12:01 a.m. on September 22, 2021, Ontario will require patrons to provide ID and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to access certain businesses and settings. This approach focuses on higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn and includes:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout);
  • Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
  • Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
  • Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport;
  • Sporting events;
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas;
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs;
  • Racing venues (e.g., horse racing).

These mandatory requirements would not apply to outdoor settings where the risk of transmission is lower, including patios, with the exception of outdoor nightclub spaces given the risk associated with the setting.

At no time will anyone unvaccinated be prevented from accessing necessary medical care, food from grocery stores, basic medical supplies or other essentials.

All Ontarians can print or download their vaccination receipt from the provincial booking portal.

This process will be in place until Oct. 22, when the province’s QR code and verification app will come into effect.

 

Guidance & Resources for Businesses

GUIDANCE FOR BUSINESSES
The Proof of Vaccination Guidance for Businesses and Organizations under the Reopening Ontario Act provides information for businesses and organizations implementing this requirement.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The government has put together a full Frequently Asked Questions on proof of vaccination policy for businesses and organizations.

REGULATIONS
Businesses can also refer to the regulations for more information.

POSTERS FOR THE WORKPLACE
Click on the images below to download + print for your business/organization.

Rapid Testing Programs

The Hamilton and Stoney Creek Chambers of Commerce are pleased to provide small- and medium-sized businesses in Hamilton, Flamborough, Stoney Creek, Binbrook, Elfrida and Winona with free COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Testing Kits for their workplace.

This benefit for businesses is made possible through the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative – an initiative with the Ontario Chamber Network. Rapid testing is quick, easy, and free.


Eligible to participate:

  • Businesses (including non-chamber members) with 150 employees or less. For businesses with over 150 employees, please order directly from the Ontario government portal.
  • Private career colleges and private-designated learning institutions (post-secondary). Tests are available to staff members and students attending campuses and are not yet fully vaccinated. Must be 150 employees or less.
  • Private schools (elementary and secondary). Tests are available for staff members who are not yet fully vaccinated. Must be 150 employees or less.
  • Licensed childcare programs. Tests are available for staff members who are not yet fully vaccinated. In the case of home-based childcare programs, other unvaccinated adults in residence, or regularly at the residence, also qualify for testing. Must be 150 employees or less.
 
HAMILTON:

The Hamilton Rapid Testing pick-up centre is located at 44 Frid Street and operates from Tuesday to Thursday, 10 am to 3 pm. Kits cannot be picked up without an appointment.

STONEY CREEK:

The Stoney Creek Rapid Testing centre is located at the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce office (21 Mountain Avenue South). Kits cannot be picked up without an appointment.