Editor’s note: Alberta Health officials originally stated 1,640 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday. However, the number of new cases is 1,460. This story has been updated with the correct case number.
Alberta will begin to administer its first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine next Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the rollout plan Wednesday, which will begin with 3,900 doses of the vaccine for 3,900 healthcare workers, including ICU doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers throughout the province.
“These staff are exhausted and they’ve put themselves at risk for 10 months,” Shandro said. “Alberta is ready to deliver this vaccine.”
The announcement came Wednesday afternoon, after Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was officially approved for use in Canada on Wednesday morning.
The first shipment of the vaccine must be administered at the delivery site, which is why Alberta is starting with healthcare workers rather than long-term care residents, Shandro said.
“We can’t deliver it to continuing care facilities in this first round in December, but we hope that by covering the staff we will start reducing the risk to patients and residents and will immediately reduce the burden and risk for the staff.”
The first set of acute care staff to receive the vaccine will come from Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre and Peter Lougheed Centre, as well as Edmonton’s University of Alberta Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Shandro said AHS has the facilities and equipment in place to meet the ultra-cold storage requirements for the vaccine, which requires two doses about one month apart for it to be effective.
The health minister said AHS will be reaching out to eligible healthcare workers this week to book vaccinations. Second dose appointments will be booked when the first dose is administered, Shandro explained.
“It’s been a tough year,” Shandro said. “A tough year for all of the Albertans who have been touched by the COVID pandemic and most of all, for those in our province who have lost loved ones.
“It’s been hard for all of those who have been working on the frontlines of the pandemic… We all could use a little bit of good news right now.”
The provincial government is working with the federal government to solidify plans for the second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which Shandro said should arrive later this month.
“We haven’t been given firm numbers or firm timelines by the federal government,” Shandro said.
“The purchase agreements are with the federal government and the manufacturers. I understand that they’ve given an estimate, I think it was around a quarter million, to Canada in total by the end of the calendar year. How many of those will be sent to Alberta and when, we don’t know at this time.”
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor with the regulatory branch of Health Canada, stressed that while the approval process for the vaccine was quick, it has been as thorough as the approvals for any other drug seeking the green light for use in Canada.
Health Canada said the data confirms the vaccine is roughly 95 per cent effective, and was “well tolerated” with no serious safety concerns.
Two people in the U.K. with previous histories of significant allergic reactions experienced allergic reactions to the vaccine as part of that country’s early rollout, which began Tuesday. Both people are recovering.
People under the age of 16 have not yet been approved for the vaccine.
Shandro stressed that good news about vaccine distribution does not mean Albertans can take their foot off the gas when it comes to adhering to the restrictions that are currently in place to curb the spread of COVID. New sweeping measures were announced by the province on Tuesday.
“It will be many months until the majority of Albertans are immunized and until then, we are each other’s best defence,” he said.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said news of the vaccine delivery is exciting, but echoed Shandro’s cautious optimism.
“It is remarkable that we will have a vaccine available in the same year that this pandemic arrived in Canada. However, as I have said before, while the arrival of a vaccine is positive news, it will be some time before we can immunize most Albertans,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“Until then, we must be the vaccine for each other.”
Alberta’s COVID-19 numbers Wednesday
Alberta reported 1,460 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 15 additional deaths from the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Four of the deaths were in the Calgary zone. Three were not linked to outbreaks: a man in his 60s with no known comorbidities, a man in his 80s with unknown comorbidities and a man in his 30s also with unknown comorbidities. The fourth death was a man in his 80s with comorbidities who was linked to the outbreak at Clifton Manor in the Calgary zone.
Nine of the deaths were reported in the Edmonton zone, with five of those linked to outbreaks. A man in his 80s with unknown comorbidities was linked to the Youville Home outbreak, a woman in her 90s with comorbidities was linked to the outbreak at Villa Marguerite, a man in his 70s with comorbidities who was linked to the Royal Alexandra Hospital outbreak, a man in his 90s with unknown comorbidities linked to the St. Joseph’s General Hospital outbreak and a man in his 90s with unknown comorbidities who was linked to the outbreak at the Chinese Seniors Lodge.
The four other deaths reported in the Edmonton zone were a man in his 50s and a woman in her 80s, both with unknown comorbidities, a man in his 60s with no known comorbidities and a man in his 70s with comorbidities.
The other two deaths were reported in the Central zone. A man in his 90s with known comorbidities who was linked to the outbreak at Rosealta Lodge and a woman in her 60s with unknown comorbidities have both died.
Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 653.
There were 685 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 121 of those people being treated in intensive care.
Alberta’s active case count of COVID-19 now stands at 20,199. There have been 73,488 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.
With files from Amanda Connolly and Kirby Bourne, Global News.
More to come…