By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Chatham-Kent council opted to defer a municipal employee vaccine policy at its council meeting Monday night. The Chatham Voice reached out to all members of Chatham-Kent council asking for voluntary disclosure of their vaccination status and to explain the reasons behind their decisions. The request was made via e-mail and answers appear in the order they were received.
South Kent Coun. Clare Latimer has been double vaccinated since June. As a long-time community health-care provider, Latimer said it’s not out of the ordinary to expect/accept the need for vaccination to “protect myself, my family and my clients.”
West Kent Coun. Mark Authier did not disclose his vaccination status to The Voice, but noted he would reveal it at Monday’s regular council meeting if asked to do so.
North Kent Coun. Jamie McGrail has been double vaxxed since July 7 because she is listening to the science.
“My reasoning is that I want to be part of the solution and hopefully to be able to travel in the near future,” McGrail said. “I choose to listen to our health officials within Canada and I am going to let them guide me through the pandemic.”
Mayor Darrin Canniff is also fully immunized and proud of it, saying simply he wanted to be “part of the solution.” Like everyone else, he had to wait for his age group to open up and got his first shot of Pfizer at the Bradley Centre clinic in May.
“I only wish I could have got it sooner,” Canniff said.
Wallaceburg Coun. Carmen McGregor received her vaccine within days of her eligibility. As a member of the CK Public Board of Health, and the South Western representative of Local Public Health Agencies at the regional level, McGregor is committed to the facts.
“I believe fully in the science that has been provided by WHO and our medical officers of health, both federally and provincially.”
West Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan, who also works in health care, is fully vaccinated to “support her community,” adding that even if she contracts COVID-19, her symptoms will be lessened, thereby reducing the chance of hospitalization. She also doesn’t want to put vulnerable family members at risk.
“In a nation where public health care is part of our values, we need to collectively take action to protect our health system,” Harrigan explained.
South Kent Coun. Trevor Thompson also has both his shots. He believes in public health medicine and said we only need to look to the past for proof.
“Take a walk through Maple Leaf Cemetery,” Thompson advised. “Before vaccines and modern medicine, we used to stack human bodies like cordwood; human suffering, from hell to breakfast.”
Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor is another councillor who has received both shots of the vaccine. The naturopathic doctor said he did it to protect his family, community and the people he works closely with.
“Equitable access and use of vaccination is a key component in improving outcomes, controlling the spread of COVID-19 and minimizing the impact the pandemic has on our community,” McGregor said. “Like everyone, I look forward to the end of the pandemic and a return to normal.”
Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew has both her shots.
“I am fully vaccinated,” she said. “I eagerly got the vaccine to protect my family, my friends and my community. I trust the science behind it,” Crew explained. “I believe that the vaccine is one of the best tools that we have to beat the virus.”
Wallaceburg Coun. Aaron Hall got his first and second mRNA doses as soon as he was eligible, saying he based his decision on advice from WHO and medical officers of health at all levels.
“I believe vaccination against the COVID-19 virus is the best way to protect my community, my family and myself.”
Increasing our vaccination rates is the ticket out of the pandemic, Hall noted, adding he encourages everyone to “roll up their sleeve to receive the shot.”
South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci, who also works in the health-care sector with seniors, said he’s been fully immunized for quite a while as he qualified for the vaccine early because of his job.
“As soon as I was able to get it, I got it,” Ceccacci said. “I work in a high-risk setting and it was the most responsible thing to do to protect my team and seniors I work with. Plus, I want to keep my friends and family as safe as possible. I felt it was my duty.”
Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman is another elected official who got his shots as soon as he was able.
“I was double vaxxed as soon as I could be,” Sulman said, adding if a booster becomes available he’ll be signing up for that too.
The veteran councillor explained that he got the COVID-19 vaccine for the same reason he gets the flu shot every year.
“It just makes sense,” Sulman said. “It’s preventative medicine. It was my personal decision.”
Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy declined to offer his vaccination status, as he believes the decision is a “personal” one, adding he “will keep his status private in the interest of confidentiality. I respect the decision that anyone makes,” Bondy said.
North Kent Coun. Joe Faas is another councillor who got double vaxxed at the earliest possible moment. As chair of the Chatham-Kent Board of Health, Faas said it up to health-care representatives to “lead by example.
“I believe immunization is the best defense against COVID-19,” Faas said, noting vaccines have worked well in the past against the scourge of horrifying illnesses such as tuberculosis and polio. “I believe it is the right thing to do and the way out of the pandemic.”
Chatham Coun. Karen Kirkwood-Whyte said she and her husband became fully immunized as soon as they could. The Chatham-Kent Board of Health member said it is up to leaders in the community to set an example for others.
East Kent Coun. John Wright said he and his wife also got their shots as soon as they were eligible.
“I got vaccinated because it’s the right thing for me,” Wright said, adding he has employees and council responsibilities that put him in close contact with others and he wants everyone to be safe.
East Kent Coun. Steve Pinsonneault said he did not want to comment as he considers vaccine status to be a private matter.
Chatham Coun. Amy Finn could not be reached for comment.