Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the last name of Deputy Minister Paul Wynnyk. 630 CHED regrets the error.
“While we can’t control when these vaccines arrive in Alberta, we can make sure that when we get them, we’re ready to roll them out as quickly as we can,” he said.
Municipal Affairs Deputy Minister Paul Wynnyk will head up the “multi-disciplinary team” of people from across the public sector, Kenney said.
This team will execute Alberta’s vaccine distribution.
“Smooth and rapid vaccine distribution will not only be essential to our economic recovery, but they will be a matter of life and death for many Albertans and their families,” Kenney said.
The vaccine will be rolled out in three phases.
Phase 1 is expected to start early in the new year through March. This phase will see the vaccine be offered to those living and working in long-term care or supported living, health-care workers and First Nations people on-reserve.
“Our goals throughout this pandemic have been to protect the overall health of Albertans and to prevent our health-care system from being overwhelmed,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“It’s with these goals in mind and, as always, taking an evidence-based approach, that we are initially focusing on Albertans who are at the highest risk of severe outcomes from the virus, or those who have critical roles in health-care service delivery.”
Phase 2 is expected to last from April to June. Kenney said it will be the job of Wynnyk and his team to determine which Albertans the vaccine will be offered to
during that period, but the goal is to have up to 30 per cent of Albertans vaccinated by June.
Phase 3 should begin in the fall, Kenney said. That is when the vaccine will be offered to all Albertans.
“That means it will be months until (the) vaccine is available to the general population,” Kenney said. “This is the unfortunate reality that Canadians across the country face, and people around the world.”
With the announcement, the premier reiterated once again that no Albertan will be forced to receive the vaccine, but said the province will depend on many to receive the vaccine.
“We don’t live in a country where someone can inject you with something against your will,” Kenney said.
“We need as many Albertans as possible to get vaccinated.”
The premier said he would take the vaccine once it’s “his turn.”
“I look forward to the challenge ahead and I want to be very clear that I do not look at these vaccines simply as objects to deliver or a work task to complete,” Minnick said of his role.
“Each and every dose of vaccine represents an Albertan who needs to be protected and is vital to protecting not just their health, but their livelihoods as well.”
Alberta will have a total of 30 vaccine depots throughout the province. Thirteen of those are Alberta Health Services facilities, all of which can store the Moderna vaccine that needs to be kept at -20 C.
Another 17 are non-AHS, but have the capacity to store vaccines.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored and transported at -80 C. According to Kenney, three of the AHS facilities can receive and store that vaccine and AHS is working to get additional freezers and other equipment.
According to Kenney, the federal government has assured Alberta that vaccines will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and will continue to arrive in waves throughout the beginning of next year.
Kenney said Albertans need to continue to follow the public health guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 that have been in place since March.
“I know people are getting tired and frustrated, but this is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can see this critical juncture where we will get past the terrible damage that COVID-19 has caused for our society.”
At a news conference late Wednesday afternoon, Opposition Health Critic David Shepherd that the vaccine plan Kenney presented seems generally reasonable and added he believes Wynnyk is a “very capable public servant.”
“We’re hoping for a swift and efficient distribution of vaccines in Alberta,” Shepherd said, adding he plans to get vaccinated and urges all people in the province to do so as well.
“(But) we can’t let the prospect of a vaccine arriving soon distract us from the very real and grave danger that exists in Alberta today,” he said.
Shepherd said he believes the government did not respond quickly enough to “obvious warning signs” the crisis was worsening several weeks ago.
“It’s staggering that we are standing here and talking about the potential of bringing in federal field hospitals but yet don’t have something as simple as a provincial mask mandate,” Shepherd said. “All because Jason Kenney has refused to take simple, obvious, common-sense steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
He added he believes the “number of new cases remains alarmingly high” and that COVID-19 is still spreading “out of control in Alberta.”
Wednesday’s COVID-19 numbers in Alberta
With its latest cases of COVID-19, the provincial total of active cases has now reached 17,144.
There were 504 Albertans in hospital, with 97 of those in the ICU.
“I know the prospect of a vaccine is promising and this news provides a sense of relief and hope to many, including me,” Hinshaw said. “While we plan for this hopeful intervention, we can’t lose sight of the enormous challenge that’s in front of us today: rising case numbers and increased hospitalizations.”
Ten deaths were reported in Alberta on Wednesday.
Two of the deaths were linked to the outbreak at the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre: a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s. A man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Bedford Village in the Edmonton zone also died, along with a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at the Virginia Park Lodge in the Edmonton zone.
Two deaths were reported in the Calgary zone: a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at the Wing Kei Care Centre and a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Generations Calgary.
Two deaths — which were not linked to continuing or acute care settings — were reported in the North zone: a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s.
A man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Seasons Camrose in the Central zone died.
A man in his 70s in the South zone also passed.
Alberta’s pandemic death toll now sits at 561.
To date, the province has performed 2,289,456 coronavirus tests and 43,464 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19.
– With files from Caley Ramsay and Phil Heidenreich, Global News