Despite steadily rising vaccination rates, more than 1,300 healthcare workers, often not adequately vaccinated, contracted COVID-19 this summer and resulted in the isolation of hundreds more, contributing to the already existing staff shortage. acute.
According to the most recent data from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) on infections of healthcare workers, some 1,360 of them tested positive for COVID-19 between July 1 and September 14 2021. On July 1, only 63% of all personnel in the health network had received two doses; this figure now exceeds 89%.
At the start of the fourth wave, the assessment of recent infections in the health network contrasts sharply with that drawn up during previous waves. In fact, between January and June 2021, more than 13,541 employees had been declared positive, then temporarily withdrawn from their work.
“For that period, we didn’t have a vaccination or a single dose for most of the time. We can clearly see that the people vaccinated, whether they are health workers or not, benefit from protection against infection and how the fact of being doubly vaccinated decreases the burden on the health system ”, explains the Dr Gaston De Serres, medical consultant at the INSPQ.
These recent data do not detail the vaccination status of infected employees, but according to Dr De Serres, the vast majority were unvaccinated or only partially protected. “The current increase in this layer of the population reflects what is happening in the community,” he says.
According to figures unveiled this week by the Ministry of Health, there are still 20,000 workers not adequately vaccinated in the Quebec health network, including 8,000 in establishments on the island of Montreal. Recent daily reports show 30 to 40 new infections per day among healthcare workers.
Full immunization coverage is a game-changer not only for the workers themselves, but for the entire network workforce, since properly protected employees no longer have to be removed from work in the event of close or prolonged contact with a COVID-19 caseunless they develop symptoms, says Dr De Serres. Unvaccinated workers must still be removed from their jobs and self-isolate at home for 10 days under these circumstances.
While the overall immunization rate for health personnel is improving day by day, gaps persist between the immunization coverage of certain categories of employees, certain establishments and certain regions.
On September 14, 89.5% of employees in the health network were adequately vaccinated (two doses), but the complete vaccination did not exceed 85.7% in the job category including patient attendants, family auxiliaries and paratechnical staff. The vaccination rate is close to 91% for clinical nurses and practitioners, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists, and exceeds 95% for medical physicists, dentists and pharmacists employed by the network.
There are also differences in the vaccination coverage of employees, according to the type of establishment where they work or according to the region. Thus, for the moment, only 84% of nurses and paratechnical staff (beneficiary attendants, support, etc.) are adequately vaccinated in private CHSLDs under agreement. By comparison, nearly 93% of nurses working in hospitals or CLSCs are doubly vaccinated. The lowest vaccination rate by professional order, besides that of midwives (75%), is that of nursing assistants (83.8%), and the latter does not exceed 79% among those working in Montreal and Laval .
Differences can also be observed between certain regions, in particular with regard to the coverage of employees in CHSLDs. The staff of these establishments in Montreal and the Eastern Townships still have complete vaccination rates of less than 85%. Only the Côte-Nord (83%) and Nord-du-Québec (80%) regions do less well. In Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, 91% of CHSLD employees are fully vaccinated and 89% in the Capitale-Nationale.
“There are small variations from one region to another, but the vast majority of establishments have good rates,” says Dr De Serres. But 86% vaccination instead of 90% can make a difference. “