“A group of health-care workers, calling themselves Health Professionals United, object to AHS’ decision to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. AHS’ position is that they – and health-care workers – have a paramount obligation to protect patients, especially the sickest and most vulnerable patients who are in hospital or continuing care. They’re accommodating those who cannot be vaccinated on health or legitimate religious grounds – as they should. Ultimately, this is an issue between some staff and their employer, and I respect that.

“My bigger concern is the message the letter sends to the 630,000 Albertans who are eligible to be vaccinated but haven’t yet done so. I think most of them are sincerely uncertain and looking for guidance, and I’m deeply concerned the letter could influence some of them to choose not to be vaccinated.

“That’s a serious concern, because the claims in the letter are misleading or incorrect. So I want to speak directly to Albertans who are still considering whether to get vaccinated: I urge you to make your decision based on better information than this letter. Listen to our chief medical officer of health, Dr. Hinshaw, or the countless other physicians, health-care professionals (as well as their governing colleges) and scientists who publicly support vaccination. Or better yet, talk to your own family doctor, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or other health-care professionals.

“Those health-care professionals can do a better job of explaining the evidence than I ever could. I know that AHS and other health-care professionals will respond. But for what it’s worth, the claims in the letter are misleading or simply wrong. I have the deepest respect for all health-care workers. But the letter does not reflect good science or good health-care advice.

“The letter says COVID-19 vaccines have not been proven to prevent transmission of the virus. That’s patently misleading. You can still get sick and transmit the virus even if you’re fully vaccinated. But it’s far less likely – and if you do still get sick, it’s far less likely to be serious. Multiple studies have shown all of this, including this example.

“Furthermore, recent data from the United Kingdom shows that two doses of vaccine are estimated to give 79 per cent protection against symptomatic COVID and 96 per cent protection against hospitalization. This includes the Delta variant. I’ve linked that information here.

“The health-care workers’ letter also says recent breakthrough infections among vaccinated people in Israel is reason to doubt the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Again, this is not true. A recent Reuters article notes that severe breakthrough cases are being seen mostly in immunocompromised and older patients who simply have a less robust immune response from the vaccines.

“This is why multiple jurisdictions, including Alberta, are now offering booster shots to vulnerable populations, including continuing care residents and folks with pre-existing conditions. What we need now is for more people to get vaccinated to reduce community spread so that vulnerable Albertans are protected.

“It’s true that getting infected with COVID-19 gives you some “natural immunity.” But we don’t know how much or how long it lasts. What we do know is that you have much more protection if you also get immunized, even if you’ve been infected. There’s some evidence that antibodies from natural immunity decline after three months, while protection from vaccines lasts longer. The evidence is still developing but here’s one study on results to date.

“Finally, the letter references the number of people apparently harmed by vaccination (“vaccine injuries”) reported to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). This also is deeply misleading. The data in VAERS has not been reviewed by medical professionals, so we don’t know how many of the reports in it may be duplicates or if the COVID-19 vaccine really played a role in a given report. The Government of Canada does report on legitimate medical issues after vaccination. Of the 16,090 individual reports (0.029 per cent of all Canadian doses administered), 4,288 were considered serious (0.008 per cent of all doses administered). Here is the link to that information.

“The bottom line is that it remains your choice whether to be vaccinated – for yourself and for your kids, if you’re a parent. Getting vaccinated helps protects you and the people around you.

“We need to make decisions based on good information and good advice from health-care professionals. We’re in a crisis due to our low vaccination rate, and the one sure way out of it is for more of us to get vaccinated.

“I did it – both doses – and I urge you to do it too – for yourself, for your family and for our community.”