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1,650 AHS staff put on unpaid leave for breaching vaccine mandate while others offered rapid test option –



Alberta Heath Services’ vaccine mandate went into effect Monday and while the vast majority of employees have adhered to the policy, 1,650 full-and part-time AHS staff not fully immunized have been put on unpaid leave.

The mandatory vaccination policy applies to all AHS and Covenant Health staff as well as workers at AHS subsidiaries, including Carewest, Capital Care and Alberta Precision Laboratories. 

According to the health authority’s website, AHS and its subsidiaries have a combined workforce of 121,000 people with around 97 per cent of their full- and part-time staff fully immunized.

Despite the hundreds of people put on leave, a total of 175 staff at healthcare facilities where there has been a low vaccine uptake have been offered a rapid test option.

In late-November, the provincial government directed AHS to allow the temporary rapid testing option due to concerns care could be impacted at sites where compliance is low.

AHS won’t say which facilities, for privacy reasons, but did say 19 programs or departments within a number of hospitals and continuing care homes, as well as nine emergency medical service stations, will offer rapid tests.

Most are in the central, north and south health zones.

Lorian Hardcastle, an associate professor in the faculty of law and Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, says the government’s messaging to have a rapid test option undercuts the the vaccine mandate.

“I do worry that there may be pushback from some of the sites where there isn’t a rapid testing option, and they may argue that there should be an across-the-board policy for all sites.”

She adds that having some employees accommodated and others not may also lead to tensions in the workplace.

“You had some people who were opposed to getting vaccinated, but reluctantly did so, and then others who held out a little bit longer and were rewarded with a rapid testing option.”

Grievances filed against AHS

AHS implementing the rapid test option has led to grievances being filed by both the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

In a release on Dec. 10, UNA  said the initial immunization policy, which required all employees to be fully vaccinated, was appropriate, while the revised one sets different rules for some employees.

AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola says their members are quite upset that AHS chose to not apply the mandate to all work sites.

“When they made the shift to accommodate sites that had low vaccination rates, we feel this is very unfair application of their policy.”

She says if the rapid testing option had been applied across the province instead of just select sites, the number of those using it would have been much higher.

“We have members who as of yesterday were basically told not to bother, to go home, or just not to bother coming to work because they haven’t shown the proof of their vaccination status.”

She says some members have filed personal grievances against AHS for denying them the rapid test option.

“It’s going to be an ongoing issue because there was an issue before COVID hit and now we’ve got people being sent home from small rural sites.” 

AHS did state in an email that unvaccinated employees on leave will be able to return to work if they provide proof of full immunization.

Medical, religious exemptions

AHS says more than 11,000 employees have requested exemptions to the mandatory immunization policy — with 251 of those being medical accommodations.

However only 40 per cent of those have been granted.

“We don’t know the exact basis for the medical exemptions, but we do know that generally speaking, there have been efforts put in place to draw those exemptions quite narrowly,” said Hardcastle.

She adds there are very few medical conditions for which the COVID 19 vaccination is contraindicated.

“For many serious health conditions, you’re better off with the vaccine than with the chance of getting COVID,” she said.

AHS has also received 883 religious accommodation requests, but only a few of those have been granted.

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Third COVID-19 outbreak declared this month at Cambridge Memorial Hospital –



Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH) has declared its third COVID-19 outbreak of the month.

The outbreak was announced on Jan. 18 in medicine B (wing B, level 4) with two patients and one staff member testing positive.

A hospital outbreak is declared when two or more patients and/or staff test positive for a respiratory illness that was acquired in hospital within a time frame that is consistent with the epidemiology of the disease, and when there is a link between the cases.

According to CMH, safety precautions added include: enhanced surveillance by increased swabbing and testing non-infected patients and staff; enhanced cleaning, especially to high touch areas; and visits to inpatients have been paused for the entire hospital as of Jan. 8.

Virtual visits and phone connections for patients and families can be arranged.

The outbreak in medicine B could be declared over on Jan. 28 after 10 consecutive days with no new infections.

The hospital is still in outbreak in two other units, rebab and inpatient surgery.

The rehabilitation unit outbreak was declared Jan. 4.

As of Jan. 19, 12 patients and three staff have been infected, with the last positive test detected on Jan. 16, targeting the earliest possible end date at Jan. 26 if there are no new cases.

The inpatient surgery outbreak was declared Jan. 7 and at this time, seven patients and six staff have been infected. The last positive test was detected on Jan. 15, which targets the outbreak’s end date at Jan. 25 should there be no new cases.

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Those who had COVID-19 and are vaccinated have best protection, study finds – National | –



A new study in two states that compares coronavirus protection from prior infection and vaccination concludes getting the shots is still the safest way to prevent COVID-19.

The study examined infections in New York and California last summer and fall and found people who were both vaccinated and had survived a prior bout of COVID-19 had the most protection.

But unvaccinated people with a past infection were a close second. By fall, when the more contagious delta variant had taken over but boosters weren’t yet widespread, that group had a lower case rate than vaccinated people who had no past infection.

Read more:

Vaccination may lower risk of ‘long COVID’ studies say — but experts aren’t so sure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the study Wednesday, noted several caveats to the research. And some outside experts were cautious of the findings and wary of how they might be interpreted.

“The bottom line message is that from symptomatic COVID infection you do generate some immunity,” said immunologist E. John Wherry of the University of Pennsylvania. “But it’s still much safer to get your immunity from vaccination than from infection.”

Vaccination has long been urged even after a prior case of COVID-19 because both kinds of protection eventually wane — and there are too many unknowns to rely only on a past infection, especially a long-ago one, added immunologist Ali Ellebedy at Washington University in St. Louis.

“There are so many variables you cannot control that you just cannot use it as a way to say, `Oh, I’m infected then I am protected,”’ Ellebedy said.

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s COVID-19 death toll highest in the country'

Quebec’s COVID-19 death toll highest in the country

Quebec’s COVID-19 death toll highest in the country

The research does fall in line with a small cluster of studies that found unvaccinated people with a previous infection had lower risks of COVID-19 diagnosis or illness than vaccinated people who were never before infected.

The new study’s findings do make sense, said Christine Petersen, a University of Iowa epidemiologist. She said a vaccine developed against an earlier form of the coronavirus is likely to become less and less effective against newer, mutated versions.

However, experts said, there are a number of possible other factors at play, including whether the vaccine’s effectiveness simply faded over time in many people and to what extent mask wearing and other behaviors played a part in what happened.

Another thing to consider: The “staunchly unvaccinated” aren’t likely to get tested and the study only included lab-confirmed cases, Wherry said.

“It may be that we’re not picking up as many reinfections in the unvaccinated group,” he said.

Read more:

4,132 people in Ontario hospitals with COVID, 589 in intensive care

CDC officials noted other limitations. The study was done before the omicron variant took over and before many Americans received booster doses, which have been shown to dramatically amplify protection by raising levels of virus-fighting antibodies. The analysis also did not include information on the severity of past infections, or address the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

The study authors concluded vaccination “remains the safest strategy” to prevent infections and “all eligible persons should be up to date with COVID-19 vaccination.”

The researchers looked at infections in California and New York, which together account for about 18 per cent of the U.S. population. They also looked at COVID-19 hospitalizations in California.

Overall, about 70 per cent of the adults in each state were vaccinated; another five per cent were vaccinated and had a previous infection. A little under 20 per cent weren’t vaccinated; and roughly five per cent were unvaccinated but had a past infection.

Click to play video: 'Toronto to collect COVID-19 data through wastewater'

Toronto to collect COVID-19 data through wastewater

Toronto to collect COVID-19 data through wastewater

The researchers looked at COVID-19 cases from the end of last May until mid-November, and calculated how often new infections happened in each group. As time went on, vaccine-only protection looked less and less impressive.

By early October, compared with unvaccinated people who didn’t have a prior infection, case rates were:

— Six-fold lower in California and 4.5-fold lower in New York in those who were vaccinated but not previously infected.

— 29-fold lower in California and 15-fold lower in New York in those who had been infected but never vaccinated.

— 32.5-fold lower in California and 20-fold lower in New York in those who had been infected and vaccinated.

But the difference in the rates between those last two groups was not statistically significant, the researchers found.

Hospitalization data, only from California, followed a similar pattern.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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Over 1.2 million people died from drug-resistant infections in 2019 – study



More than 1.2 million people died in 2019 from infections caused by bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria, according to a new report published on Thursday.

Global health officials have repeatedly warned about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and other microbes due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages microorganisms to evolve into “superbugs”.

The new Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance report, published in The Lancet, revealed that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was directly responsible for an estimated 1.27 million deaths and associated with about 4.95 million deaths. The study analysed data from 204 countries and territories.

“These new data reveal the true scale of antimicrobial resistance worldwide… Previous estimates had predicted 10 million annual deaths from AMR by 2050, but we now know for certain that we are already far closer to that figure than we thought,” said Chris Murray, co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Washington.

Last year, the World Health Organization warned that none of the 43 antibiotics in development or recently approved medicines were enough to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Cornelius Clancy, professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said one of the ways to tackle AMR is to look at a new treatment model.

“The traditional antibiotic model that we’ve had for past number of decades since penicillin. I think it is tapped out.”

Most of 2019’s deaths were caused by drug resistance in lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia, followed by bloodstream infections and intra-abdominal infections.

AMR’s impact is now most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while around one in five deaths is in children aged under five years.

There was limited availability of data for some regions, particularly many low and middle-income countries, which may restrict the accuracy of the study’s estimates.

Clancy said the focus has been on COVID-19 for the past two years, but AMR is a “long-term kind of challenge”.


(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Devika Syamnath)

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