Oxford County to implement vaccine mandate for staff, but not without opposition from Woodstock mayor

Oxford County has become the latest area government to endorse a vaccine mandate for staff, but it didn’t come without major resistance from the mayor of Oxford’s largest municipality.

Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch was the lone voice speaking out against the vaccine mandate for all county staff, calling it “forced inoculation.” 

He told a meeting of Oxford County Council such a mandate infringes on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that “so many of our bloodlines have fought for.”

Birtch also warned of potential legal challenges.

“It’s time for us to not rush into something where we could face potential legal challenges that could cost the taxpayer dollars, but more importantly cost citizens that ability of choice.”

The resolution, which passed 7-1, mandates that all staff, councillors, contractors and volunteers provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Zorra Township Mayor Marcus Ryan, who filed the motion, says it makes county workplaces safer.

“When we choose to make a policy like this, to ask our staff to make a choice to be vaccinated — not choosing to do that means asking other employees to come to work in a workplace where there is a higher chance of them catching a disease.”

Those unvaccinated will have to complete mandatory vaccine education, and submit to regular testing.

But that’s only for the short term according to Ryan. He says county staff need time to come up with a firm date for the full mandate to take effect.

“The intention was to have our staff have the opportunity to work with employees and get them to a place where they’re vaccinated.”

The medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health, Dr. Joyce Lock, says she supports the county’s move.

“The most important thing is that if we can increase vaccine coverage we’ll be able to control the fourth wave better than when we had lower vaccine rates. So I very much endorse this move by Oxford County.”

As part of the resolution member municipalities in Oxford are also being encouraged to develop similar vaccine policies because of the overlap of staff throughout the county.