Can anyone force me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
No one can force you to get vaccinated. But if you don't, there may be things that you can't do. This is because employers, landlords, and other people are responsible for keeping places safe.
The law is not yet clear about what this means in different situations. But here are some examples:
- The law says that some employers must have COVID-19 vaccine rules. This includes employers like hospitals, shelters, and child-care programs. Other employers may choose to have COVID-19 vaccine rules. An employer's vaccine rules may say that most people must be vaccinated. This might include employees, contractors, students, and volunteers.
- Airlines and border officials may require travellers to be vaccinated.
- The law says that some housing providers must have COVID-19 vaccine rules. This includes university residences, licensed retirement homes, and long-term care homes.
- In Ontario, students must have certain vaccines to attend school. The COVID-19 vaccine is not yet part of the official list of vaccines that students must have. If it's added to the list, students will need to have this vaccine to attend school.
If you can't get vaccinated because of religious or health reasons, you can ask for an exemption. Your employer or landlord may ask for proof to help them decide, like a doctor's note or letter from your religious leader. If you get an exemption, it means that you won't have to be vaccinated.
You can only get a vaccine exemption because of some religious beliefs or health conditions. You can read the Ontario Human Rights Commission's policy statement to learn more about what counts as a religious belief or creed. The Ontario government has a list of health conditions that might require a vaccine exemption.
The law says that landlords, employers, businesses, and other places can't treat you differently because of your religion or health condition. Once you've shown that you have a valid reason for not getting vaccinated, they must work with you to figure out a solution.
For example, if you tell your employer that you can't get vaccinated because of a health condition, your employer might let you work from home.
If you don't get vaccinated, you may have to get tested regularly to go into places with vaccine rules. Usually, these will be rapid tests.
You can only get vaccinated if you agree
If you're capable of understanding what it means to get vaccinated, no one can force you to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
In Ontario, a health practitioner, like a doctor or a nurse, can't give you any medical treatment unless you give your permission.
A vaccine is a medical treatment. So, a health practitioner can't give you a vaccine unless you agree.
But you may not be able to do certain things if you don't get vaccinated.
Vaccines for young people
The laws about medical treatment apply to everyone. Your age does not matter.
Children and young people have the right to make their own decisions about medical treatments, including if they get a vaccination.
If you're a young person and you want to get vaccinated, you can do this, even if your parent does not agree.
If you're a young person and you do not want to get vaccinated, a health practitioner can't give you a vaccine. This is true even if your parent wants them to.
Young people can speak to a lawyer for free by contacting Justice for Children and Youth.
Vaccines for people who are not capable of understanding
The law is different if you can't understand a medical treatment, like a vaccination. Then, someone else gets to make that medical decision for you.
For example, this could apply to:
- a very young child, or
- an adult who's not of understanding vaccinations.
The person who gets to make a medical decision for someone else is called a “”. This is usually a family member, like a parent or a spouse.
Your health practitioner can never be a substitute decision-maker. A health practitioner can't give someone a vaccine just because they think it's a good idea.
Talk to a lawyer if:
- you think you're being forced to get a vaccine unfairly, or
- you need advice about COVID-19 rules.
For more information about COVID-19, contact your local public health unit.