Alberta’s pediatricians have expressed concern over the provincial government’s plan to eliminate COVID-19 testing in the community, contact tracing and mandatory isolation this month.
Executive members of the Alberta Medical Association’s Section of Pediatrics sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney Monday to ask for the continuation of strong public health measures until 85 per cent of Albertans have be immunized or the endemic phase of COVID-19.
Pediatricians say that the removal of monitoring measures, combined with the recent removal of public health restrictions such as the mask mandate, will further accelerate the spread of the Delta variant.
“Evidence shows that the Delta variant is more contagious than seasonal influenza and spreads as easily as the chicken pox virus,” said Dr. Michelle Bailey, president of the Section of Pediatrics.
“Over 1.5 million Albertans remain unvaccinated and over half a million children under 12 are still ineligible for the vaccine, which leaves us far from reaching herd immunity and nowhere near the endemic phase of COVID-19.”
The letter to the premier outlines why pediatricians are concerned for the health of children and families, including how high numbers of COVID-19 infections in children translate to higher numbers of children who develop serious illness, such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C) or severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
Vaccine trials in children under 12 years old are underway and vaccines for this age group will likely be approved in the next six months, but pediatricians say that in the meantime it is imperative that we continue to protect our children and vulnerable populations with other risk mitigation measures.
Dr. Tehseen Ladha, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta and an executive member of the AMA’s Section of Pediatrics said there are lessons to be learned from other jurisdictions that have abandoned their protective measures.
“As we near the start of the school year, the relaxed public health measures will result in a fourth wave where COVID-19 will spread quickly throughout unvaccinated populations and children. This poses a high risk to children and families,” said Ladha.
“We are asking the government to continue with strong public health measures until we have either reached herd immunity (85 per cent of Albertans immunized) or the endemic phase of COVID-19. We don’t want to see any more of our young patients getting sick. They are vulnerable and it is our job to protect them.”