Infectious Diseases

Algoma Public Health

COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Toolkit for Workplaces in Algoma

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To keep our workforce and community safe and healthy, Algoma Public Health strongly recommends local employers institute workplace vaccination policies to protect their employees and the public from COVID-19. Algoma Public Health also strongly encourages all those eligible in Algoma to receive a complete series of COVID-19 vaccine.


While strongly encouraged, these recommendations are voluntary, and are not intended to be legally enforceable under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.


On This Page:


1. Recommendations from Algoma Public Health and Background 7. Provision for Unvaccinated Workers Example: Rapid Antigen Testing Program
2. Role of Employers and Workplace Benefits of Promoting Vaccination 8. Tracking Workplace Vaccine Information
3.  Summary of OCMOH Directives and Instructions 9. Eligibility and Locations to Get Vaccinated in Algoma
4. Assessing Your Workplace for Risk of COVID-19 Transmission 10. Tips to Increase Employee Vaccine Confidence and Uptake
5. COVID-19 Vaccine Policy: Key Components and Templates 11. COVID-19 Safety Reminders and Resources for Workplaces
6. Policy Action Steps Explained 12. Questions? 


Download PDF: COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Toolkit for Workplace 

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH) Directives and Instructions for various workplaces and sectors are changing rapidly. While Algoma Public Health aims to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the completeness of any information provided in this toolkit.


This toolkit does not contain legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Workplaces should consult with a qualified legal professional to address their specific circumstances. No workplace should act, or refrain from acting, based solely upon the materials provided in this resource, any hypertext links or other general information without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.




Recommendations from Algoma Public Health and Background


Algoma Public Health appreciates all of the effort Algoma workplaces have put into preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our communities safe. Together, we have minimized the number of positive COVID-19 cases and raised vaccine coverage in Algoma.


As of September 13th, 2021, of the eligible residents ages 12+ in Algoma, over 85% have received at least one dose and over 78% have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Our coverage rates are updated weekly, and you can follow Algoma’s vaccination progress on Algoma’s COVID-19 Immunization Tracker.


Despite our efforts to date, Ontario is in the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Circulation of the Delta variant and the experiences of other jurisdictions have demonstrated the need for additional steps to increase vaccination rates, ensure protection against COVID-19 in public settings, and keep businesses open. Vaccines remain our best defense to combat this new wave. Those who are unvaccinated have a 7-fold higher risk of symptomatic COVID-19 disease, a 27-fold higher risk of being in the hospital and a 42-fold higher risk of being in the ICU compared to the fully vaccinated.


COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe and highly effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. The COVID-19 vaccine, along with routine public health measures, will provide the best protection for your workplace.


Supporting employees in getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect them from the risks of COVID-19, prevent outbreaks, and build confidence in the health and safety of your workplace, especially as the Delta variant circulates more quickly and dangerously. In addition, workplaces with high vaccination coverage also benefit from continuity of work and reduced absenteeism. There are many benefits to having an immunized workforce.


This toolkit is intended to provide you with the basic information and resources needed to design a COVID-19 vaccination policy and build vaccine confidence in your workplace.



  • Organizations do not need to submit their vaccine policies to APH for approval. APH will not be reviewing individual vaccine policies, however, will provide support to workplaces seeking vaccine-related information and resources.
  • A workplace policy should be in writing and adhere to applicable laws, including those related to the Occupational Health & Safety Act, Ontario Human Rights Code, and applicable privacy laws.





Role of Employers and Workplace Benefits of Promoting Vaccination


Role of Employers


  • Employers have a responsibility, as per the Occupational Health & Safety Act, to maintain a safe work environment for their employees. Employers need to assess their workplace for the risks of COVID-19 transmission, and must take every responsible precaution to protect their workers, including employees and those hired under third party agencies, contractors, vendors, volunteers, students, etc. To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, outbreaks, and severe health outcomes, a COVID-19 vaccine policy is a valuable measure employers can implement.
  • Employers play an important role in building vaccine confidence by facilitating open conversations with employees to express concerns and share reputable vaccine information.
  • Employers in Algoma are community leaders and role models for building healthy, safe and community-minded workplaces.


Benefits of Promoting Vaccination


Having an immunized workforce has benefits that extend beyond health and wellness. An immunized workforce that is protected against COVID-19 has vast benefit for business continuity.


For example, in the event of a workplace outbreak or exposure, workers who are fully immunized and test negative are able to continue to work, allowing for businesses to continue operating without significant disruptions due to workers isolating for extended periods of time.


Benefits of an Immunized Workforce:


  • Enhanced workplace health and safety.
  • Reduced risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death related to COVID-19 among employees.
  • Reduced employee absences due to illness and associated requirements for isolation.
  • Sustained workplace productivity and minimized risk for disruptions.
  • Boosted workplace morale and confidence associated with safe working conditions.
  • Maintained client/customer health and safety.

Based on an organizational risk assessment, each organization will take their own approach to vaccine policy, while following applicable directives and instructions.





Summary of OCMOH Directives and Instructions


A list of current Directives and Instructions issued by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH) has been provided below. Directives and instructions include the minimum requirements that must be met by specified settings/sectors, with more stringent vaccine policies able to be implemented.

Please note that provincial direction on vaccine policy continues to evolve, and this table is reflective of direction and instructions up to and including September 12, 2021.






Assessing Your Workplace for Risk of COVID-19 Transmission


As a first step to developing your workplace vaccine policy, assess your workplace’s risk of COVID-19 transmission. This workplace risk assessment will help to determine the nature of your workplace policy (i.e., the inclusion of minimum to more stringent requirements) to adequately protect your workers and clients/customers.


Some questions to ask include:


  • Is your workplace aligned to any of the current OCMOH Directives or Instructions
  • Does your workforce have a high vaccination rate (i.e., over 90% fully vaccinated), if known?
  • How many workers are part of your workforce? How many volunteers, students, contractors, etc. are included?
  • Can workers keep at least two meters apart while performing their routine work?
  • Are there circumstances in which masks can or must be removed during workplace activities?
  • Are workers required to be in close contact with others, at the workplace or in the community, while performing their work (i.e., job sites)?
  • How long and how often are workers in close contact with others?
  • Does your workplace have physical barriers when workers cannot keep a safe distance? Good ventilation? Personal protective equipment?
  • Do you have workers who may be at risk for severe illness from COVID-19? For example, some individuals are at increased risk due to age, pre-existing health conditions, or medical treatments.
  • Is your workplace able to offer alternative work arrangements for those needing accommodations (i.e., work from home option)?

While answering these questions, it is important to consider if and how your workplace applies the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Hierarchy of Controls for Controlling COVID-19 in the Workplace. (See Detailed Table)


The absence of risk mitigation measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., workforce that cannot work from home, unable to physically distance, unable to mask for certain activities, close contact is part of routine work, etc.) may signal the need for a stronger vaccine policy in your workplace.  






COVID-19 Vaccine Policy: Key Components and Templates


When working to develop a workplace policy for COVID-19 vaccination, there are several recommended components for inclusion. The list below is provided as recommendation, not legal guidance, for the development of your policy.


Key Components in a Workplace Vaccine Policy


  • Provide Context and Purpose:

    • Explain the purpose of the policy, including the risks of COVID-19 and benefits to vaccination. It is also important to recognize that vaccines do not replace the need for adherence to established COVID-19 safety measures outlined by provincial guidelines (i.e., COVID-19 screening, physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, infection prevention and control measures, up-to-date workplace safety plans, etc.).
    • Explain who the policy applies to in your workplace. It is recommended that the policy apply to all employees, staff, contractors, volunteers and students, as relevant.
    • Establish a clear communication plan to inform workers about the policy and any changes.

  • Legislative Framework:

  • List Action Steps Necessary:

    • Identify actions workers must take as per the policy.
    • When necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, based on individual workplace assessment, workplace policies should require workers to provide proof of vaccination, with vaccines approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization. Alternatively, workers may need to:

Check it out! Ontario Human Rights Commission – Questions and Answers: Workers may request an exemption based on the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). OHRC has developed a series of questions and answers for understanding your human rights and obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic. These questions and answers cover the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. Legal consultation is recommended for any institutions seeking to establish an exemption policy in accordance with the OHRC.


  • Set a Deadline:

    • Specify a reasonable date when workers must demonstrate compliance with the policy. 

  • List Supports for Vaccination:

    • Demonstrate your commitment to supporting workers in getting vaccinated. Explain any workplace supports for vaccination (some examples are provided HERE).

  • Non-Compliance

    • Explain any consequences for workers who do not fulfil the workplace policy, as consistent with the OHSA.

  • Privacy Considerations

    • The policy should protect a worker’s privacy as much as possible and explain how vaccination status will be used, shared, or disposed of by employers.

    • Information must be protected in accordance with applicable privacy law. When employers are collecting proof of vaccination, they must comply with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). PHIPA governs the need to keep personal health information confidential and secure.

    • When collecting information about a worker’s vaccination status:

      • Identify ways to safeguard workers' personal health information
      • Limit information collected to the worker's name and date of vaccination for each dose
      • Keep worker vaccination information separate from their personnel file
      • Ensure personal health/vaccination information is kept in a secure manner and only used when required

  • Contact:

    • Identify who will be the workplace contact person should workers have questions.

    • The policy should also indicate how, where, when and to whom any proof of vaccination documents, exemptions, or applications for accommodation will be submitted.


With an evolving policy landscape in Ontario, it is important to acknowledge that your policy may change as the status of the pandemic changes, including changes to legislation, scientific or public health advice and direction.


Policy Templates and Samples


Policy Components and Recommendations:



Sample Letters to Employees:






Policy Action Steps Explained


Proof of Vaccination 


As part of a workplace vaccination policy, employees are required to submit a record of vaccination and declare their vaccination status to their employer. This may include a signed COVID-19 Vaccination Declaration form and record of recent vaccination.


It is important that the workplace policy outline where and how employees can provide proof of vaccination, while also addressing any privacy concerns.


Full vaccination* means having received the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine or combination of COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (e.g., two doses of a two-dose vaccine series); and having received the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days ago.


An employee is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after they receive their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.


Acceptable proof of vaccination includes a download PDF or printed copy of a COVID-19 vaccine receipt that demonstrates all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine series have been received (i.e., 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine).


If an individual has lost the vaccine receipt received at their last appointment, they can print or receive a new copy. Here's how you can retrieve your vaccine receipt


Note: As the Provincial Vaccine Certificate System rolls out, this may be subject to change or include other forms of vaccination proof (i.e., digital QR code which businesses and facilities can scan using a government app).


Supporting Resource:



Vaccine Receipts


If you or your employee(s) have misplaced your vaccination receipts that will be needed as proof of vaccination, you can receive a copy online on-demand or from Algoma Public Health.


1. Online and On-Demand


You can view, download, and print your own vaccine receipts on demand at: 


Receipts are available:

  • For first and second doses received in Ontario (once you get them).
  • Regardless of where you were vaccinated (for example, at a mass immunization clinic, hospital, pharmacy or primary care setting).

To log in and get your receipt, you will need:

  • A green photo health (OHIP) card. You will need the numbers from both the front and back of the card. Expired cards will be accepted.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Your postal code (the one associated with your health card).


2. Algoma Public Health Support


For those who do not have an Ontario health card or cannot use the webpage, you can request a copy of your vaccine receipt by emailing Algoma Public Health at or by calling 705-942-4646 ext. 3297


Within your message, please include your name, request for a copy of a vaccine receipt, and contact information (i.e., phone number). A team member from APH will call you to retrieve any additional personal health information needed. 

Due to high demand for this service, requests submitted to Algoma Public Health may take at least 5 business days to process.



Vaccines Received Outside of Ontario/Canada


If you or your employee(s) received your COVID-19 vaccine out of province or country, you are able to send Algoma Public Health a request to enter your COVID-19 vaccine into our Ontario data base (COVax).


If you have access to e-mail: 


  • Your request can be sent by email to
  • Proof of vaccination is required to verify the vaccine product received outside of Canada or Ontario. You can attach a copy to your e-mail.
  • Please provide your name and contact information. Algoma Public Health will connect to retrieve any additional personal health information required. 


If you do not have internet or e-mail:


  • Call Algoma Public Health at 705-942-4646 ext. 3297
  • Please leave a message with your name, request, and contact information.
  • You can drop off or mail a copy of your vaccine record to Algoma Public Health (294 Willow Ave., Sault Ste. Marie, P6B 0A9). Our office hours are Monday – Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm.

Due to a high demand for this service, requests submitted to Algoma Public Health may take at least 5 business days to process. 



Medical Exemptions


Proof of COVID-19 vaccination administration, proof of a medical exemption, or proof that the individual has completed an education program approved by an organization are three common actions within workplace vaccine policies, unless instructed otherwise by the OCMOH.

As per the Ontario proof-of-vaccination system to take effect September 22nd, 2021 in certain high-risk indoor public settings and facilities, those who cannot receive a vaccine due to medical exemptions will be required to provide a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of the digital vaccine certificate.


COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe and effective. Due to the high safety profile of mRNA vaccines and lack of interaction with medications or chronic health conditions, there are very few situations were medical exemptions are warranted.

Written proof of a medical reason must be provided by either a physician or registered nurse in the extended class.


Examples of the few acceptable medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination include:

  • An allergist/immunologist-confirmed severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of its components that cannot be mitigated.
  • A diagnosed episode of myocarditis/pericarditis after receipt of an mRNA vaccine.

A note provided by a physician or nurse practitioner for a medical exemption must clearly specify:

  • The reason the individual cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19; and
  • The effective time period for the medical reason (i.e., permanent or time-limited).


Additional Resources:


Education Modules


Workplace policies should require workers who do not provide proof of vaccination or a medical exemption to complete a vaccination education module alongside a signed declaration that they understand the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.

Educational resources can take the form of virtual modules, in-person education, and print resources.


Educational programs should include, at a minimum, the following information:


  •          How COVID-19 vaccines work;
  •          Vaccine safety related to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines;
  •          The benefits of vaccination against COVID-19;
  •          Risks of not being vaccinated against COVID-19; and
  •          Possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination.

Some publicly available education programs being used by other organizations are listed below.






Provision for Unvaccinated Workers Example: Rapid Antigen Testing Program


Within a workplace policy, provisions or requirements for unvaccinated workers should be included to ensure continued safety of the unvaccinated employee, other workers, and clients. Potential responses may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: Routine COVID-19 testing, masking or addition PPE requirements, physical distancing, work from home accommodations, or leaves of absence without pay.


The appropriate requirement(s) will depend on the employee’s work, the workplace, and the duty to accommodate, if applicable. The policy and its requirements must be applied in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.


As part of a Workplace COVID-19 Vaccine policy, employers may require unvaccinated employees (i.e., medical exemption or choosing not to vaccinate, if applicable) to participate in a COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program, as one of many possible alternative requirements if not receiving a vaccination series.


Note: Routine rapid antigen testing is not an equivalent substitute for a complete series of a COVID-19 vaccine. Ensuring employees are fully vaccinated and follow public health measures is the best way to protect individuals, workplaces, and our community from COVID-19.


 Why use Rapid Antigen Testing?


Rapid antigen screening tests allow workplaces to proactively identify cases of COVID-19 that may have otherwise been missed, supporting employee safety and business continuity. Any organization that is permitted to open under the Reopening Ontario Act and where individuals must be physically present on site may be eligible to participate in Ontario’s Provincial Antigen Screening Program.


Rapid Antigen testing can be performed anywhere (i.e., on-site, at the place of employment) by a health professional or trained individual (see: Who Can Perform a Rapid Antigen Test) and does not require any shipping of the specimen to a lab for processing. The test is administered through a nasopharyngeal swab, combined swabbing of the throat and both nares, deep nasal swabbing (both nares) or anterior nasal swabbing (both nares), and takes about 15 minutes to yield results, depending on the test being used.  


Frequent screening (2-3 times/week) with rapid antigen tests increases the chances of early identification of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals.


A positive result on a rapid antigen test is considered a preliminary positive and must be followed up with a laboratory-based PCR test at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre to act as a confirmatory test as soon as possible (ideally within 48 hours). The individual who received a positive result on the rapid antigen screening test should self-isolate until the result of the lab-based PCR test is known.


NOTE: Antigen testing should NOT be used to test for COVID-19 infection in symptomatic individuals, individuals with known contact with a COVID-19 case or in outbreaks. Rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR testing done at COVID-19 Assessment Centres.


 Additional Information on Rapid Antigen Testing



Accessing Kits for Workplaces


Upon reviewing the requirements of the Provincial Antigen Screening Program and identifying fittingness for your workplace, you can locate testing kits through numerous locations. Routine asymptomatic test kits can be purchased by the employer, or ordered from a community supplier.


Test kits are available from:


Pharmacies Offering Individual Pay-For-Service Asymptomatic Rapid Antigen Testing


If you (as an individual) are required to complete Rapid Antigen Testing, few pharmacies in Algoma are offering pay-for-service testing. This testing is provided for individuals requiring proof of a negative rapid test. Large-scale screening is not available.

To locate the nearest pharmacy that provides rapid antigen testing within the Algoma District, visit the Algoma Public Health: Where to get a Rapid Test in Algoma and associated Frequently Asked Questions webpages. These pages will be updated as more pharmacies begin to offer testing.


NOTE: Routine rapid antigen testing is for asymptomatic screening only. Routine rapid antigen testing is not provided by the local COVID-19 Assessment Centers or Algoma Public Health. 


If you or your employee:

  • Are showing symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by APH or exposure notification through the COVID Alert App;
  • Are a resident or work in a setting that has COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by APH; or
  • Eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ontario Ministry of Health;


You should immediately self-isolate and visit one of the four COVID-19 Assessment Centers across Algoma. The assessment centers are being run by Sault Area Hospital, Elliot Lake Family Health Team, Lady Dunn Health Centre, and North Shore Health Network.


These COVID-19 Assessment Centers DO NOT provide rapid antigen testing for asymptomatic individuals.


Please visit the Algoma Public Health webpage for more information on COVID-19 Testing in Algoma, including assessment center details, locations, and hours.





Tracking Workplace Vaccine Information


COVID-19 vaccination provides robust protection against COVID-19, and can be used with public health measures to keep employees and clients safe. An employer can reasonably inquire into the vaccine status of its workers if its workers work in a location with common areas or its workers could have contact with clients, customers, or the public.


Vaccination status should be treated as confidential, personal health information. A workplace policy should reflect that information about employee’s vaccination status is subject to applicable privacy laws.


When developing or using an existing, secure system for capturing vaccine status (unvaccinated, unvaccinated with medical exemption, partially vaccinated, or fully vaccinated), consider the following:

  • Limit the collection, use, disclosure and retention of all vaccination status information obtained to what is reasonably necessary, minimizing points of contact.
  • Keep vaccination information in a separate stored area or file from an employee’s personnel file.
  • Develop a plan in advance to safeguard the employee’s personal information, ensuring that they are stored in a private and secure manner.
  • Ensure your employees understand your privacy policies and practices and make your policies readily available (e.g., post on a common Health and Safety board, workplace portal, website, etc.).
  • Determine whether documentation will be on paper, electronic or combination of both. Establish a procedure for the recording, storage, access, and destruction of personal information.

Supporting Resource:

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: Privacy considerations during COVID-19.





Eligibility and Locations to Get Vaccinated in Algoma


Individuals age 12 + years (born 2009) are eligible for an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. The second dose of an mRNA vaccine can be administered a minimum of 28-days after the first dose.


In Ontario, individuals age 12 (born 2009) to 17 should receive the Pfizer vaccine. For individuals age 18+, Pfizer or Moderna can be received.


For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada, visit APH’s About COVID-19 Vaccines page.


For information on upcoming no appointment needed clinics (pop-up clinics), visit APH’s No Appointment Necessary Clinics page.  


For information on Algoma-wide vaccine clinics and pharmacies offering vaccination, visit APH’s Vaccine Clinic page. 





Tips to Increase Employee Vaccine Confidence and Uptake


When initiating a workplace vaccination policy, it is important for employers to demonstrate to their staff and employees that they are committed to supporting them in getting vaccinated.

Some examples of actions employers can take to show their support for vaccination in the workplace include, but are not limited to:


  • Acting as a vaccine champion in the workplace, by setting an example and getting fully vaccinated.
  • Building trust, by listening and acknowledging employees concerns, answering questions, and encouraging employees to speak with their healthcare provider.
  • Sharing credible information (e.g., This is Our Shot, 19 to Zero, World Health Organization, Health Canada, and Algoma Public Health).
  • Making vaccination as easy as possible – post information about upcoming clinics and pharmacies administering vaccine in regularly visited locations, offer to help with transportation, or offer flexible hours to help employees get vaccinated during work hours.
  • Reminding workers that they are entitled to up to three paid sick days, if they have side effects from the vaccine.
  • Tracking and celebrating positive workplace actions. Providing incentives, hosting challenges, and celebrating coverage milestones in the workplace can motivate others to get vaccinated.
  • Responding with empathy towards those who are frustrated, ashamed, or guilty towards their vaccination status to build trust and help find the answers they need to build confidence.
  • Pending the size of your workplace, partnering with others to host an (a) Q&A Information Session on COVID-19 Vaccines and/or (b) onsite vaccine clinic.

Supporting Resource: Toronto Public Health. (2021). Five tips to increase employee vaccine uptake.





COVID-19 Safety Reminders and Resources for Workplaces


While evidence evolves about COVID-19, its variants, and the long-term protection provided from COVID-19 vaccines, it is important that we continue following public health measures in the workplace and community. Vaccines and public health measures together will offer the best protection from the spread of COVID-19.


Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures are needed alongside vaccination to prevent transmission and outbreaks in the workplace. These measure include (at minimum):


Check it out!








COVID-19 Vaccination Information


Check out the Algoma Public Health website for locations to get vaccinated and vaccine information:



Want to speak with a public health team member? Call us: 



Ontario’s Vaccine Information Phone Line: 1-888-999-6488


Healthy Workplace Information and Support 


Questions about how to support a healthy workplace during COVID-19?



Questions about provincial instructions or business directions, you can also contact the Ontario Government:



Share Your Policy

If you are interested in sharing a copy of your workplace policy with public health, not for legal review but for awareness, please forward to: