By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
With January half over, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued into 2022 with no real signs of slowing down.
Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow was in Municipal District of Taber council chambers on Jan. 11 to discuss a variety of topics, with COVID-19 being one of them.
With frustrations continuing to mount over restrictions, one M.D. councillor asked about recent testing of antibodies and if that could be done province-wide.
“Has the government looked at doing any sort of serology testing for antibodies so the people who choose not to get vaccinated, if they’ve had COVID, from what I understand they are as good as being vaccinated. So is there an avenue being looked at for them being accepted in society again as not being vaccinated?” asked Coun. John Degroot.
Around 1,200 residents in the hamlet of La Crete paid $100 each in mid-December to have their blood tested for antibodies by Ichor Blood Services, a private lab specimen collection company based in Calgary.
The tests found antibodies in most of the 991 unvaccinated individuals who were tested, though health experts have continued to urge caution.
“This unofficial society divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated really breaks my heart. I have so many constituents, good people who are not vaccinated, and I respect that decision, who feel they have been treated as less than. That’s disappointing, that’s never been the intention of the government, but I can understand why people may feel that way,” replied Schow.
He continued to explain to council that he has also brought forward ideas around natural immunity and how that could potentially help Alberta.
“Back in the last session before Christmas, I spoke at length about natural immunity and recognizing that some European jurisdictions do recognize natural immunity with some kind of serology testing or proof of positive COVID test in the last six to eight months. I never try to pass myself off as a physician, but I look at other jurisdictions and what’s working for them. They call it an immunity passport where you are looking at people’s ability to not transmit a virus, I think that’s what it comes down to. People who are COVID negative or not transmitting a virus, (that’s) my understanding.”
While antibodies and natural immunity have been discussed at the provincial level, it was explained there were no concrete answers to if that was going to be a suitable answer any time soon.
“I know they have looked at it. It is a bit of a complex issue because it depends on how severe your infection was and how many antibodies you have. I think, right now from a pure perspective of ‘Joe Citizen’, I would look at it and say they are pretty swamped even just with PCR testing. You saw the changes there. Doing serology testing may be a bit difficult at the moment, but I think going forward we have to look at options because what’s happening is not sustainable,” continued Schow.
He also touched on the fact non-vaccinated Albertans were facing an uphill battle in several areas, including post-secondary schooling.
“If we’re going to be one of the most robust, booming economies in the country for the next couple of years, we need a workforce. How are we going to go into that fight with one arm tied behind our back with some of our best and brightest who are not being allowed to finish their degrees? I’m looking at this logically and saying ‘OK, what are the long-term effects of this.’ I have my concerns and I think we have to look at all possibilities to ensure going forward we can have people getting back to their lives as normal,” added Schow.
Others on council echoed similar sentiments around bridging the gap that has been created throughout the pandemic.
“I think it’s important we look at what’s out there as well. We can’t create the divide on the opposite side as well. We have to be respectful of those who have got vaccinated as well. I don’t like seeing the divide and I do want us to move forward,” stated Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
“I think everyone’s voice has value and that is what concerns me the most,” responded Schow. “I have seen the conversations of vaccinations and I’ll say on record that I am double vaccinated and that’s my choice. But, I have seen families divided, I have seen friends divided, I have seen towns and communities divided — it’s heartbreaking to me. More than ever right now, we need people to come together, stop fighting about it, and find common ground about what unites us and not what divides us. Sadly, vaccinations have become a very political issue, it’s not even what people take is their personal health and safety, it’s rather just an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.”
As Alberta continues to see higher case numbers due to the Omicron variant, Schow also highlighted the fact the government’s number one priority is to protect the health care system. On top of that, Schow explained he has had conversations with people from around Cardston-Siksika around the future of public health care.
“I do know the government’s intention is not to go and divided society, but to try to protect a health care system that is having a hard time keeping,” he said. “I’ve also heard that we have to have a conversation about public health care. I hear that from my constituents a lot. It’s my job to represent them and they come to me and say ‘our system isn’t working.’ I’ve read some articles recently and I think there’s a conversation to be had about how we address public health in general in Canada because we have a system that has worked very well for the last 100 years and right now we’re really struggling. So, what changes, if any, need to be made to ensure if this happens again we’re prepared without having to shut down life as usual because it’s rough out there.”