August 4, 2021
Changes in public health policy do not change professional responsibilities.
ACP applauds all of Alberta’s pharmacists and pharmacy technicians for the extraordinary personal investment made during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect our communities. The availability and accessibility of your expertise throughout the pandemic continues to clearly establish your importance to families, communities, and our health system.
Alberta’s government, through the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has announced changes to public health policy related to the prevention, management, and surveillance of COVID-19. These changes shift responsibility from the government to individuals, and demand even more from regulated health professionals. While many practices will no longer be legally required by or provided by government, they are still important to individual Albertans and regulated health professionals like pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
COVID-19 remains a concern to personal and public health, and its risks will shift but not go away. Our learning continues as many questions remain, particularly with respect to the morbidity and virulence of new strains like the delta variant, and the long-term effects on those infected. Eventually, COVID-19 will join the list of other transmissible respiratory infections that we routinely manage.
Pharmacy teams continue to have a significant responsibility to demonstrate and educate individuals and families about personal behaviours to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infections. While masking, physical distancing, and good personal hygiene are no longer legal public health requirements, they should continue to be demonstrated and promoted by pharmacy team members.
Pharmacy team members should continue to promote vaccine uptake, and support initiatives to dispel myths and misinformation spread by organizations and individuals who advocate against COVID-19 immunization. Pharmacists should continue to approach their patients and assess their vaccination status for COVID-19 in order to increase the number of Albertans who are fully vaccinated.
While provincial rules around self-isolation are being removed, it is important that individuals with symptoms or confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to remain at home to prevent the spread of the virus. If you identify individuals who are symptomatic, encourage them to stay home, and provide them the appropriate professional support to manage their symptoms.
Testing for COVID-19 is also changing, and asymptomatic testing will no longer be recommended except as part of a provincial or national program, or for those requiring a test for the purpose of international outbound travel. Testing of those who are symptomatic will only be recommended to inform treatment. With this change, point-of-care testing for COVID-19 should not be routinely performed or promoted by pharmacists or pharmacy technicians. You should only administer a point of care test for COVID-19 if you are personally prepared to accept responsibility for the case management of the patient, should the test return positive. Again, if an individual presents with symptoms, they should be guided to stay at home and be supported to appropriately manage their symptoms. This includes providing advice about when to seek medical attention if their symptoms/condition worsen; or if they are compromised due to other comorbidities.
Our experience with COVID-19 magnifies the role and responsibilities of pharmacy teams in disease prevention and public health. The declaration of the pandemic necessitated legal orders to change personal and professional behaviours. Regardless of when the pandemic ends, and when the legal requirements are repealed, good practices and behaviours that prevent the spread and impact of the virus must be continued.