‘Let’s stop underestimating this virus’: Doctors call for vaccine passports in Alberta

EDMONTON — Some doctors are disappointed with Alberta’s government for not introducing vaccine passports, which they say would be a better tool to fight the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had hope and then we entered a dark phase where all of a sudden we lost our leadership,” said Dr. Darren Markland, an ICU physician.

On Friday, Alberta announced financial incentives in the form of $100 gift cards for unvaccinated people if they get vaccinated. This is in addition to the Open for Summer Lottery, which recently drew for its second $1-million prize.

“It does not work,” said Markland. “The people who’ve decided not to get vaccine won’t until they literally get skin in the game and that skin is to participate in their previous lives, which everybody wants, so no, a hundred bucks isn’t going to do it.”

On Friday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that financial incentives have been used successfully in the U.S. An infectious disease physician called the evidence around such incentives “mixed.”

“New York City offered $100 incentives and that wasn’t sufficient and they’ve fundamentally needed to institute vaccine passports,” said Dr. Leyla Asadi. “Let’s stop underestimating this virus, please, please, now, finally… and do what we need and get through this.

“We don’t want to be shutting down businesses, businesses have been through enough and it fundamentally seems unfair to have to keep doing that when we could say, ‘Okay, if you are at high risk of becoming infected or spreading the virus we don’t want you in these places where you could be a super spreader.’”

The premier has stated that vaccine passports will not be implemented in Alberta.

“We really need to move to this model where we’re not punishing everybody, where we acknowledge that we need to take measures to reduce the number of cases, we acknowledge that there’s potential for strain on the health care system but we want to take steps that are not as drastic as what we had previously,” said Asadi.

With COVID-19 cases in the province rising, Alberta Health Services is postponing non-urgent surgeries in all five health zones.

“A scheduled surgery is not a minor thing, someone might have waited 12 months or longer to get their hip fixed because they can’t walk without pain,” said Dr. Paul Parks, Alberta Medical Association Emergency Medicine Section president. “The choices people, Albertans, are making right now to not get vaccinated are impacting other people.”

According to AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, intensive care units across the province were sitting at 95 per cent full as of Friday.

“One of the things people forget… is that we need those ICU beds for non-COVID patients too,” said Parks.

With schools back in session, Asadi said that it is only a matter of time before community transmission rates increase.

“I would’ve liked to see the province say, ‘Okay, in schools we want to invest in better ventilation, filtration with portable HEPA filters, I would’ve liked to see them encourage masking in schools,” said Asadi.

“To pretend that transmission somehow doesn’t happen in schools, I don’t think that that’s founded in the science, I don’t think that that’s a reasonable stance anymore.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson 

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