EDMONTON -- Staff in Edmonton intensive care units are treating patients for COVID-19 even after they’ve received a dose of a vaccine.

“The majority of people who’ve gotten this have had an exposure either before their vaccine or right afterwards,” said ICU physician Dr. Darren Markland. “Studies are very clear, you have to wait your two weeks.

“You have to let the paint dry before you sit on the bench.”

It takes two weeks for antibodies to develop in your system after the first dose of vaccine.

“We definitely know that through the mRNA vaccines after two weeks with one shot your risk of critical illness reduces significantly, but a lot of that data happened before we had the variants come out,” said Markland.

“It doesn’t reduce the infection rates but if these people had waited two weeks after their first shot, they may have gotten sick, they may have even had to come into hospital, but they wouldn’t have been coming to the critical care unit,” he added.

And two shots are better than one.

“There is increasing immunity with a single shot, but to be completely safe yes, two with our mRNA vaccines, especially with our variant population,” Dr. Markland said.

Despite the high number of hospitalizations and patients in ICU, Markland said staff are keeping up, likely because patients are younger than the previous wave.

“The people who come in with COVID pneumonias respond much quicker when they’re on the ventilator,” said Markland.

“So instead of having these two and three week stays, which were really clogging up the unit, we’re just seeing a week, which really helps.”

But that doesn’t mean front-line health care staff aren’t worried about the days and weeks ahead.

“It only takes a super-spreader event to really hit you hard, especially when you’re running at capacity there’s not a lot of flex in the system,” Markland said.

After a tough year battling COVID-19, Markland said seeing people excited about getting vaccinated is encouraging.

“That makes me feel good,” said Markland. “You see these beaming, young, youthful people promoting vaccination. Thank you for that. That’s fantastic and it’s translating into some real numbers.”

He’s hopeful it will encourage the 40 to 50 year old age group, who he sees a lot of in ICU, to roll up their sleeves too.

“Whatever vaccine you can get in your arm is a good one right now,” said Markland.