Three of Ontario’s biggest hospitals for children say they will require everyone who comes in contact with their patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Younger people are getting sick with the virus and ending up in hospitals in greater numbers as the more contagious Delta variant has spread, mostly among the unvaccinated. Children born after 2009 aren't yet eligible to receive the shot.

SickKids and Holland Bloorview in Toronto and Ottawa’s CHEO said all staff, volunteers, learners, and contractors should be fully vaccinated unless they have a documented medical or human rights exemption.

“Implementing vaccine mandate policies for our staff was not our first choice, nor was it an easy choice to make, but as health-care institutions dedicated to the health of children, we feel it is the right thing to do,” Dr. Ronald Cohn, president and CEO of SickKids, wrote in their joint statement.

“For those not in compliance after completing vaccine education requirements, all options will be considered to effectively enforce the policy,” the statement said.

The mandate, which the hospitals said was tougher than Premier Doug Ford’s directive that health-care workers get vaccinated or routinely tested prior to coming to work, will start Sept. 7.

It was not immediately clear what proof the hospitals would require, while the provincial government has shied away from creating a system to verify someone’s vaccine status.

But the Progressive Conservatives did just eject an MPP, Rick Nicholls from Chatham-Kent-Leamington in the southwest of the province, after he refused to get the vaccine, soon after saying all 64,000 employees of the Ontario Public Service would have to be vaccinated or regularly tested.

At least 70 per cent of patients and clients of the three hospitals — a more uniquely vulnerable population than young people in general — are currently ineligible for vaccination, as are more than two million school-aged children due to return to classrooms (or keep learning online) next month.

“We are united in our belief that immunization against #COVID19 is an individual and societal responsibility,” says Dr. Ronald Cohn, president and CEO of #SickKids.

“We are united in our belief that immunization against COVID-19 is an individual and societal responsibility,” Dr. Cohn said.

The province’s chief medical officer of health has recently warned of a different fall and winter due to rising COVID-19 cases, and the province earlier this week released new rules for a range of different public settings.

The official, Dr. Kieran Moore, said the province supported the move.

“We recognize that some organizations, where a vast majority of patients are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, will need to go beyond the minimum standard set by our directive,” Moore said.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer