2 deaths from delta variant at Calgary hospital a dire warning, expert says
'We're told that 70% is good enough. It's not,' says Dr. Alain Tremblay
Experts say two deaths connected to an outbreak of the delta variant at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary underline the need to get more Albertans fully vaccinated.
Of those two deaths, one patient had been fully immunized while the other had not received any vaccine, Alberta Health Services says.
One of them, a male patient, died June 10 and the other, a female, died three days later. Neither was admitted to ICU.
Officials would not confirm whether the deaths are the first and second deaths recorded in Alberta attributable to the delta variant, otherwise known as B.1.617.2.
Craig Jenne, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary, says the deaths are a clear warning that even in hospitals, where infection controls are top notch, sometimes the virus still spreads.
"We do know the vaccines overall still offer a great deal of protection," said Jenne.
"But it is a reminder that we simply cannot let these variants run wild in the community, that they still have a significant risk to health."
AHS said both of the patients who died had significant underlying health conditions.
There are now 23 cases — 17 patients and six health-care workers — connected to the delta variant outbreak at the hospital.
Eleven of those were fully vaccinated, nine had one dose and the others were unvaccinated.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, wrote on Twitter that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective.
The deaths of 2 patients naturally raises concern, as 1 had been vaccinated. Every death is tragic but it’s important not to over-generalize the community risk or effectiveness of vaccines. The patients were in their 80s & required hospitalization before being exposed. (2/10)—@CMOH_Alberta
Jenne says what is not known is how bad this outbreak would have been without immunizations.
"There is strong evidence that this outbreak, or at least its potential, was limited because of good vaccine coverage of the affected people," he said.
Dr. Alain Tremblay, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary and a respirologist at Foothills, says the deadly outbreaks at that hospital are a dire warning that Alberta must do better than just aiming for 70 per cent having a first dose.
"Because we're told that 70 per cent is good enough. It's not," he said.
"I think the politicians are allowed to ask the population to step up and do more than the minimum of 70 per cent. Everyone has to, you know, do their share."
The delta variant has rocked the United Kingdom in recent weeks, prompting some to call for a delayed reopening in the country.
With files from Jennifer Lee