Preventive screening for COVID-19 demanded for non-vaccinated oncology caregivers

The Quebec Cancer Foundation joins its voice to those of the 15 doctors from the Center hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) and asks Quebec to require preventive and recurrent screening for COVID-19 in unvaccinated caregivers working in oncology.

A major outbreak is underway on the hematology-oncology floor of the CHUS. Sixteen patients were infected and four died, confirms the CIUSSS de l’Estrie. Of the employees, seven were diagnosed positively. The majority of them had not been vaccinated, reported a group of 15 doctors, in a letter sent to Duty mardi.

For the director general of the Quebec Cancer Foundation Marco Decelles, there is no doubt: unvaccinated oncology caregivers must undergo three screening tests per week to protect patients. “Either the staff in these sanctuary areas get vaccinated and help in the effort to make the place safe, or make the three screenings systematic every week,” he says.

Marco Decelles hopes that this outbreak is “an error of course, certainly unfortunate”, which will remind the staff to “not let their guard down”.

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The Association des médecins hématologues et oncologues du Québec (AMHOQ) believes that all oncology staff should be encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19. “If through good will and awareness, we do not succeed, it is sure that we must think of means such as that of the ministerial decree”, says Dr Christian Carrier, secretary at AMHOQ and head of the hemato-oncology service at the CIUSSS de la Mauricie-et-du-Center-du-Québec.

Under a ministerial decree in force since April 9, unvaccinated caregivers working in emergencies, intensive care, pulmonology, in COVID units or in specialized COVID-19 clinics, in CHSLDs and other units accommodation are obliged to undergo a screening test at least three times a week.

Oncology staff are not among the employees targeted by this decree. However, hematology-oncology units are considered “sanctuary areas”, that is to say “very white areas where patients who are treated there are particularly vulnerable to infections in general and to COVID-19. in particular, ”recalls Dr Christian Carrier.

Asked to respond, the office of the Minister of Health and Social Services stressed being “very sensitive to the unfortunate situations caused by COVID-19 and the impact on loved ones and families”. “Please note that Minister Christian Dubé asked the Ministry of Health this morning to analyze the request to introduce this practice in oncology units,” said his press officer Marjaurie Côté-Boileau in a written statement.

The firm specifies that “in general, healthcare workers working with vulnerable clients must provide their employer with proof of vaccination against COVID-19”. Unvaccinated caregivers must undergo preventive and recurrent screening, we continue. “According to the ministry’s assessment, the environments targeted by this directive are those most at risk of COVID-19,” writes Marjaurie Côté-Boileau. She adds that “oncology has always had very high measures and standards in terms of infection protection and control.”

The Dr Christian Carrier believes that these enhanced health measures will have to be maintained for longer in sanctuary areas. “We expect a much slower de-escalation of measures in very cold areas, shrines,” he said. This is what we are going to advocate. “

Cancer patients do not respond in the same way to the COVID-19 vaccine. “As the immune system, for many, is weakened, they receive immunosuppressive drugs, it is possible that the vaccines, even with two close doses, do not give the full protection”, explains Dr Christian Carrier.

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