Alberta Health Services has dropped its COVID-19 vaccine mandate as a condition for employment, effective immediately.
Late Monday afternoon, AHS issued a release announcing that AHS healthcare workers will no longer be required to be immunized for COVID-19 as a condition of employment.
That also goes for new hires and students, who won’t require a jab to get a job.
The decision was based, the release said, on emerging evidence that vaccines have become “less protective against infection, due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 virus.
It added that current evidence shows that immunizations without boosters have limited effectiveness in reducing transmission of Omicron variants of the virus.
“We continue to recommend COVID-19 immunization, 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 Mauro Chies, Interim President and CEO, AHS, in the release.
“The immunization policy was implemented to protect patients, healthcare workers and the public at a time during the pandemic when the immunization required by the policy was still effective in preventing transmission and when it was needed most to help contain the spread of COVID-19,” Chies added. “This was the right policy at the time, and was based on the best evidence available to protect our staff and patients.
“Policies and procedures have had to constantly evolve during the pandemic to reflect significant changes in the virus itself and the ever-changing evidence base as we continue to protect our people and patients.”
Late Monday afternoon, NDP health critic David Shepherd responded with an email statement describing the move as a political decision by the UCP not a clinical one.
“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,” Shepherd said.
“It is absurd that protection against COVID-19 is being removed from the list of required vaccinations for new AHS staff. This virus has killed more than 4,600 Albertans, and patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities are most at risk.
“Health Minister Jason Copping and the UCP are pandering to an extreme anti-vaccine fringe in the party in the midst of the UCP leadership race, and putting patients and their families at risk.
“It is truly shameful that Minister Copping is validating the false and dangerous anti-vaccine statements made by UCP leadership candidates.”