Calgary’s Catholic community won’t receive exemption letters from the church

CALGARY –

A Calgary bishop says members of the Roman Catholic Diocese will not sign off on any letters exempting parishioners from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

William T. McGrattan, bishop of Calgary, made the statement in a letter posted online last week.

https://www.catholicyyc.ca/blog/bishops-pastoral-letter-re-exemption-from-covid-19-vaccination

In it, he highlighted a need to “safeguard the common good” and “to promote the safety of others” by protecting public health.

One of those measures in many provinces, including Alberta, has included the concept of mandatory vaccination, McGrattan said, but it’s also brought on questions of human rights.

“This has resulted in the Diocese and the parishes receiving from members of the faithful the request for letters of exemption from the mandatory vaccination based on the grounds of religious belief,” he wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 22.

“While the Diocese respects the freedom of a person’s individual conscience as the Church teaches, the Church and her ministers cannot objectively attest to or endorse a person’s process of discernment in coming to their decision of conscience. Therefore, the Diocese and the parishes will not be issuing any letters of exemption from vaccination.”

‘VERY FEW MEDICAL EXEMPTIONS’

Both the province and Alberta Health Services (AHS) have outlined the policy for medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccinations on their websites.

Their documentation shows there are a handful of conditions granting a medical exemption letter, provided a physician or nurse practitioner writes it.

They include:

  • An anaphylactic reaction following a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and future doses are contraindicated;
  • Developing a severe adverse effect following immunization – i.e. Guillain-Barre syndrome, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and;
  • An anaphylactic reaction to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine that restricts administration of any of the available vaccines in Canada.

The Alberta Chief Medical Officer’s office says deferrals are also available for Albertans, but only under certain conditions such as the development of myocarditis or a serious adverse effect like Bell’s palsy following a first dose.

Vaccination is also deferred for Albertans who experienced an anaphylactic reaction and are still waiting for an assessment from an allergist.

Albertans receive vaccines at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

“In existing guidance there are very few absolute medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination; this finding was consistent across jurisdictions,” AHS said in its documentation published earlier this month.

“The most prominent potential exemption is related to severe allergy/anaphylaxis to the COVID-19 vaccine itself, which is noted in all documents; however the guidance on subsequent steps for these individuals varied.”

AHS says, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, that there were 11.1 cases of anaphylaxis per 1 million doses of vaccine administered in the U.S.

Religious exemptions are not presently included in Alberta’s immunization policy.

According to the latest data from Alberta Health, 5,963,532 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta. More than 82 per cent of Albertans, aged 12 and up have received a first dose and 73.4 per cent of that same group have two doses.

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