Alberta Health Services drops vaccine mandate for employees

Still, the agency is recommending COVID-19 vaccination

Alberta Health Services drops vaccine mandate for employees

Healthcare workers and new hires at the Alberta Health Services (AHS) are no longer required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for employment. This is according to the latest updated policy from the agency, which took effect on Monday.

In a statement, the AHS explained that their mandatory vaccine policy was due to the dominance of the Delta variant in order to prevent its spread among workers, patients, and communities.

"The immunisation policy was implemented to protect patients, healthcare workers and the public at a time during the pandemic when the immunisation required by the policy was still effective in preventing transmission and when it was needed most to help contain the spread of COVID-19," said Mauro Chies, interim president and CEO of AHS, in a statement.

"This was the right policy at the time and was based on the best evidence available to protect our staff and patients."

According to Chies, policies and procedures need to evolve during the pandemic to reflect the significant changes in the virus itself. And as per evidence cited by the agency, immunisation without boosters has limited effectiveness in reducing the transmission of the circulating Omicron variants.

Despite the reversal of the mandatory vaccination, however, Chies said they are still recommending immunisation against COVID-19.

"We continue to recommend COVID-19 immunisation, including all booster doses available, to all of our healthcare workers as part of our overall approach to protect patients and one another. The safety of our patients and healthcare workers is of the utmost importance to AHS," said the executive.

Workers are also still required to remain at home when sick, wear personal protective equipment, and practice hand hygiene, according to the AHS, adding that evidence will be continuously monitored to assess the need for additional measures.

'Political decision'

The announcement from AHS was met with criticism from New Democratic Party health critic David Shepherd, who called the decision a "political" one by the United Conservative Party (UCP).

"Make no mistake, this is a political decision made by the UCP, and not a clinical one made by AHS healthcare professionals," said Shepherd in a statement. "Health Minister Jason Copping and the UCP are pandering to extreme anti-vaccine fringe in the party in the midst of the UCP leadership race, and putting patients and their families at risk."

The official further described the decision to ditch vaccine mandates as "absurd," given that the virus has killed more than 4,600 Albertans.

"Anyone who is being cared for in a health facility should have the assurance that staff are vaccinated against COVID-19, among many other diseases," he said. "It is absurd that protection against COVID-19 is being removed from the list of required vaccinations for new AHS staff."


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