Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced Nov. 29, 2021 that the AHS immunization policy will now allow proof of negative COVID-19 tests in some communities and the immunization deadline has been pushed back to Dec. 13.
The mandate had previously stated that all AHS staff and physicians including its contractors would have to be double vaccinated by the end of October, which was eventually changed to November 30. If AHS employees were not vaccinated by this point they would be placed on a leave of absence without pay until they are vaccinated.
As of the end of November AHS says that 96 per cent of AHS full-time and part-time employees and more than 99 per cent of physicians have submitted proof of immunization.
Four Alberta physicians, including Ponoka-based Dr. Gregory Chan are pushing back against the AHS COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Chan, along with Dr. Eric Payne of Calgary, Dr. Joanna Moser of Calgary, and Dr. David Lowen of Sexsmith have filed a lawsuit against AHS seeking an injunction against the mandate the provincial health authority introduced on Aug. 31, 2021.
“This is about informed consent and patient autonomy,” said Chan. “They are the two principles I’m trying to uphold.”
In the statement of claim detailing the litigation, the physicians state that they oppose being allegedly forced against their will to be vaccinated “without their consent as mandated by AHS.”
They are further opposed to allegedly being forced to disclose “their private health information … with respect to their vaccination status against their will.”
The physicians further allege in their statement that because vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials, they are still considered experimental.
Regulators in the United States gave the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine full approval on Aug. 23, 2021 and in Canada, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which were both approved under interim approvals early in the pandemic, transitioned to being fully approved as of Sept. 16, 2021.
Despite the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, the United States National Institute of Health clinical trials’ website lists the Pfizer vaccine trials as ongoing and not expected to finish until May 2023. The website also lists the Moderna vaccine as continuing trials, and not expected to finish until Oct. 2022.
The physicians further allege in their statement that a full ingredient list of the vaccines is not available, making informed consent impossible; however, a listing of medicinal and other ingredients is available on the Health Canada website for each of the approved vaccines.
With the matter before the courts, Chan declined further comment.
In a statement made Nov. 15, AHS commented that 95 per cent of full-time and part-time staff, and 97 per cent of physicians had submitted proof of having two doses of the vaccine.
“Over 9,000 physicians and 200 medical leaders work with AHS,” said AHS communications manager Melissa Ballantyne.
“This lawsuit represents far less than 0.1 per cent of those physicians. AHS is confident in the validity of the mandatory immunization policy, which is important to ensure the safety of our staff, physicians and patients.”
The first court date to discuss preliminary matters will take place Dec. 17, with a court date to discuss the injunction likely to follow early in Jan. 2022.
– With files from the Canadian Press