Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he has asked health officials to find out whether evidence of naturally acquired COVID-19 antibodies can be used in lieu of proof-of-vaccine under the province’s new passport system can go.
Mr Kenny answered questions from the public on Facebook last week after announcing a vaccine passport system for non-essential businesses. Several viewers asked whether people who have previously had COVID-19, and therefore have some degree of natural protection against reinfection, still needed to be immunized to access services.
“We are looking into it,” he said, adding that Israel and Denmark allow people who can prove they can recover from COVID-19 to use services whose Requires proof-of-vaccination or a recent negative test. “I’ve said that we look at it more closely to see if we can replicate that as a feature of our program here.”
However, a possible exception is not coming soon. Mr Kenny said Alberta could not wait weeks to develop a system that would account for evidence of antibodies, especially given the current crisis in the health care system and the weakening impact of naturally acquired protections.
“The highest level of protection you can have is to have some antibodies through prior infection and to be vaccinated. That’s how you get COVID superpowers,” he said. “If you’re cured, yes, you have There is a good level of protection, but you can improve that by getting vaccinated.”
Alberta’s intensive care units are overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients and the province declared a health emergency last week. On Thursday, Alberta postponed all non-emergency surgeries to free up equipment, space and staff for temporary ICU beds.
Stephanie Smith, an infectious-disease doctor, said that while people recovering from COVID-19 have antibodies, it is not clear how long their immunity against the coronavirus lasts. In Denmark’s passport system, proof of a positive PCR test taken in the past 12 months is acceptable. In Israel, people who have recovered from COVID-19 have passport privileges until the end of 2021. However, effective October 1, passport privileges for recovered persons will expire six months after that person receives the recovery certificate.
Serology tests can be used to check for antibodies, but this will take time and money. And even if someone has claimed COVID-19 antibodies, that doesn’t mean they’re safe, Dr. Smith said.
“It’s not a perfect correlation,” she said.
He added that adding another element to Alberta’s passport system, which the government calls a “restriction waiver program,” would further complicate an already confusing policy.
Amita Singh, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said people who have contracted COVID-19 should still be vaccinated, accepting documentation of antibodies to the passport program within a certain period of time “reasonable”. ” Will happen. , instead of vaccination records.
Alberta Health “strongly” recommends getting vaccinated people already infected with COVID-19, according to spokesman Tom McMillan. The government is yet to decide whether it will broaden its passport system to include floating antibodies in those who have recovered from the disease.
“Evidence is still emerging about the extent and duration of immunity from prior COVID-19 infection,” he said.
Starting Monday, non-essential businesses in Alberta will face public-health restrictions, such as restaurants closing their indoor dining rooms, until they implement the vaccine passport system. To access the services, Albertans must provide proof that they have been vaccinated or have had a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours. It does not apply to children under the age of 12, who are not eligible for the shot, and those with medical exemptions.
Ilan Schwartz, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Alberta, called the restrictions confusing, complicated and “eventually compromised because the premier explicitly panders to those who vehemently oppose vaccination.”
“There are a lot of loopholes and exceptions and exemptions, and [the Premier] It has worked so hard, in fact, to please this beleaguered group of voters, that it has created a misleading and, in all likelihood, ineffective intervention,” Dr Schwartz said.
He said it was too late for even broader restrictions to turn things around effectively.
“These were needed four weeks ago to survive the disaster,” he said. “While I can certainly find fault with the way it has been specifically formulated and announced, I think that, more importantly, there is much to be done to save the collapse of our critical care capacity in the province. it’s late.”
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