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  • January 21, 2022 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Title: Personal protective equipment and COVID-19 risk among Canadian paramedics

Paramedics are frontline workers who are thought to be at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Due to their uncontrolled work environment, personal protective equipment (PPE) is often the only control measure available to reduce their exposure to infectious agents including the SARs CoV-2 virus. During the COVID-19 pandemic PPE shortages, particularly during the beginning of the pandemic, may have influenced the availability and use of PPE among Canadian paramedics. In response to the shortages paramedics may have been forced to provide their own PPE, use a lower level of PPE than recommended for their work tasks, or use PPE outside of the normal recommended usage guidelines (e.g., use expired PPE, extended use, reuse, or shared use). Not using appropriate PPE following recommended usage guidelines may put paramedics at an increased risk of exposure. We aimed to evaluate the quality and availability of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic among Canadian paramedics and determine how this influenced their risk of contracting COVID-19.

Paid Canadian paramedics in five provinces (BC, AB, SK, MB, ON) were recruited between January 2021 and October 2021. At enrollment, participants provided a blood sample (analyzed for nucleocapsid protein antibody to indicate a SARs-CoV-2 infection) and completed an online questionnaire through a secure portal. PPE availability was assessed using nine questions from the Statistics Canada Infection Prevention, Control and PPE questionnaire based on three time periods (prior to the pandemic, March – May 2020, and June 2020 to time of survey completion).

Of the 2838 enrolled paramedics, 2428 completed the questionnaire and 1436 provided a blood sample. Preliminary analysis reports that Canadian paramedics had a significant reduction in PPE availability and increased use of inadequate PPE during the pandemic. Extended use and re-use of PPE without decontamination was associated with an increased odds of having a COVID-19 infection, whereas needing to supply your own PPE was associated with a decreased odds of infection.

Presenter: Tracy Kirkham

Tracy Kirkham is the Associate Director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre and an Assistant Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She holds a bachelor’s degree in pathology and laboratory medicine, a master’s degree in occupational and environmental hygiene and a PhD from the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia where she investigated work-related cardiovascular risk factors among firefighters. Her research interest lies in occupational hygiene, exposure assessme

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