For 10 years, a Canadian city has doled out $64 per month for those who have not received a vaccination against a highly contagious virus that can cause serious illness and sometimes death.
The milestone came when 921 employees must complete a course on the vaccination before they can get their next check.
“It’s been very unfortunate that the city has found itself in this situation,” Mayor John Tory said, expressing confidence that workers would work through the course.
While the city of Toronto was inundated with passengers Wednesday at the busy Toronto Centre Billy Bishop Airport, the personnel will have to catch up on their vaccinations, said chief medical officer David McKeown.
Those who show symptoms of requiring vaccination should be seen by medical staff within 14 days, McKeown said, with employees who have had a measles vaccination of one year or less granted more time.
“If someone has had measles but we don’t know if they have been vaccinated, we’re quite confident that they’ll be OK,” he said.
Those who are not yet vaccinated or have previous cases will get the vaccination free of charge.
The vaccination program was launched in 2006 after officials learned nearly two-thirds of Canadian schools had more than a handful of students who had not been immunized against measles.
In the meantime, hundreds of tens of thousands of Canadians still have not received their vaccinations.
Measles typically spreads through droplets during sneezing and coughing. The symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, a rash on the face and a red, raised rash on the body.
Since the vaccine was first introduced in the 1980s, measles cases in Canada and the United States have dramatically declined, with fewer than 300 cases reported each year in the U.S. and Canada.
As of July 8, 2018, there were almost 800 cases of measles across the two countries, most of them in California, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Canada saw 189 cases of measles last year, according to Public Health Agency of Canada figures.
Last year the city had almost 24,000 city employees, including doctors, clerks, fire fighters and police officers. The money comes from the city’s $9.4 billion operating budget.
Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow said taxpayers should be allowed to weigh in.
“Instead of politicians picking winners and losers, we should be looking at how can we do a more effective job of implementing the policy,” he said.
City employees who have not been vaccinated have seven working days after their first missed appointment to make it up. Otherwise, they will be suspended without pay for up to 15 days and if they fail to get the vaccine, a vaccine will be assessed against their next payday.