Alberta Health Services says it is rescinding its COVID-19 immunization policy for its workers.
The agency says workers, as well as new hires and students, will no longer be required to have at least two vaccine doses.
It says vaccines continue to provide strong protection against serious effects from COVID-19, but there is emerging evidence that the shots have become less protective against infection.
AHS says COVID-19 vaccines available to date target the original strain of the virus.
It says evidence shows that immunization without boosters has limited effectiveness in reducing transmission of the Omicron variants currently circulating.
The agency says its workforce continues to be required to stay home when sick, wear required personal protective equipment and practise hand hygiene.
“The immunization policy was implemented to protect patients, health-care 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,” Mauro Chies, the interim president and CEO of AHS, said in a statement Monday.
“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.”
Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd called the move a political decision by the UCP, not a clinical one made by AHS healthcare professionals.
“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. 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,” Shepherd said in a statement.
“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.”
AHS says it will continue to monitor scientific evidence to assess the need for additional measures.