Alberta Health Services makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all staff

Alberta Health Services employees, including frontline healthcare workers, will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

AHS announced its vaccine mandate on Tuesday and required all workers to be fully immunized by Oct. 31. The latest day employees can get their second dose to be in compliance of the new policy is Oct. 16.

“This is an extraordinary but necessary measure to help protect our vital frontline healthcare teams and help us maintain a safe environment for all patients and clients” said AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.

The mandate also applies to employees at Alberta Precision Labs, Carewest, CapitalCare and Covenant Health, as well as contracted continuing care providers and healthcare workers.

AHS employees who can't get vaccinated due to a medical reason or a reason protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act "will be reasonably accommodated," AHS said.

Dr. Yiu said similar policies are in place in Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba, and added mandatory vaccinations are supported by Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association and Alberta Medical Association.

If a worker does not want to get vaccinated, Dr. Yiu said "it may result in an unpaid leave of absence to allow for compliance and for them to consider vaccinations."

The latest day employees can get their second dose to be in compliance of the new policy is Oct. 16.

United Nurses Alberta said without having seen the full policy, the union was "not opposed." 

"UNA believes that the question of mandatory vaccination is not a labour-relations or political question but is a public health policy issue that needs to be made by public health experts," labour relations director David Harrigan said in a statement. 

He added the unions should be given the opportunity to discuss with unions how the policy will be implemented. 

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta, which represents 28,000 health-care professionals, reiterated an earlier statement that it "encourages" members to get vaccinated and that a decision on whether to make immunization mandatory or not should be science informed, respect all charter and bargaining rights, accompany other control measures, and be made in consultation with involved unions.