Premier Jason Kenney is assuring Albertans that there will be no mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations in the province.
Kenney shared a portion of a live question-and-answer period he hosted earlier this week on his Facebook page where he insisted the province would not make any vaccinations mandatory.
“COVID-19 vaccinations will not be mandatory, not in Alberta,” he said. “In fact, our government will amending the Public Health Act early next year, when the legislature comes back. We’ll be making a number of amendments to the Public Health Act.”
Currently the Public Health Act outlines that the cabinet can order the immunization or re-immunization of persons when there is a public health emergency or epidemic.
However, Kenney said his government hopes to completely remove that power when it comes to vaccinations.
“We’re not going to strap people down to force them to be injected with a vaccine. I think the very idea is ridiculous.”
“We will encourage people to use it. Because the more people who use it, the better off we’re all going to be,” Kenney said.
If the Alberta government removes the power for cabinet to implement mandatory vaccinations, a future government could return it, but only by legislation.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said she expects to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government.
On Monday, she said the province has been prepping to receive the vaccine and freezers to store the doses will arrive in the “coming weeks.”
Hinshaw added that she agrees with the decision to remove the legislation on mandatory vaccines because it has never actually been used.
“Vaccination is something that we offer,” she said. “Vaccinations that are offered are offered through a framework that ensures that they are safe and effective.
“The ultimate choice of whether or not to receive a vaccine is up to that individual or for minors up to their guardian. And that has always been the approach in Alberta.”
However, she previously said many questions remain as the province works to devise its vaccination scheme.
“These (vaccine) numbers, of course, depend on many factors,” Hinshaw said on Nov. 18. “They depend on the final pieces of the trials that are underway going well. They depend on ensuring that the safety and the effectiveness of the early vaccines can be assured. All of those checks and balances must be cleared.”
On Friday, Hinshaw said the province is working with Ottawa to get a vaccine, but it is “a bit of a moving target” on when vaccines might be available.
“But our goal is that whenever vaccine is available, we will be ready to start immunizing individuals on that highest priority list.”
Kenney said the government has “every intention” of making sure the vaccines are widely available.
“Obviously, we will only participate in the distribution of a scientifically validated vaccine, and one that is ethically produced. But we will not be making that mandatory,” he said.
Support for a COVID-19 vaccine being mandatory in Canada is also dropping.
Polling done exclusively by Ipsos for Global News shows a drop in support for a mandatory vaccine since the beginning of the month, when it stood at 61 per cent.
That support now stands at 59 per cent, a total drop of 13 percentage points since May 2020.
–With files from The Canadian Press and Amanda Connelly, Global News