During a provincial COVID-19 update, Kenney announced a respiratory therapist at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton and an ICU nurse at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre had already been inoculated.
“This is all wonderfully good news,” he said. “Hope is here and the end of this terrible time is finally within sight.”
The province expects to receive another 25,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine within the next week and a shipment of the Moderna vaccine in “another week or so,” Kenney said.
While appearing on the Danielle Smith Show on 770 CHQR Tuesday morning, Kenney broke the news that Alberta’s vaccination program would begin that afternoon.
“I’ve got breaking news for you, Danielle, if you’d like,” Kenney said about 45 minutes into his hour-long interview.
“I just got confirmation from AHS that the first vaccination will be administered to a nurse I believe at 4 p.m. today, I think probably in south Calgary.”
Dr. Daniel Niven, an ICU doctor at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, received his vaccine on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking with Global News, he said it was a “privilege and an honor” to be a part of history in the making.
“To be one of the first to receive the vaccine — I feel very privileged, very lucky,” Niven said. “I would encourage all those that have the opportunity to get a vaccine to do so.
“Upon review of the vaccine itself and the data that was published, it does appear to be very safe and very effective. I would encourage everyone to take that opportunity when it’s provided to them.
“It’s super exciting for Canadians, for Albertans, for the world, really, because this is our way forward, is, is through vaccination and getting enough of a herd immunity to put COVID-19 behind us.”
Niven added that having the vaccine introduced in Alberta doesn’t mean we can let our guard down.
“I think the vaccine is one part of that puzzle, and it’ll certainly prevent us from experiencing symptomatic COVID-19. What we still have questions with regarding is the durability of new immunity that the vaccine brings,” he said.
“The manufacturers will fully accept that that’s not something they can comment on yet beyond two months, because that’s the amount of data that they have.
“The prevention of asymptomatic transmission is not clear yet — as far as whether the vaccine can do that,” Niven explained. “Certainly, it’s very clear that it prevents people from experiencing symptomatic COVID-19, but what’s not clear is if you’ve been vaccinated, if you could still be someone who could transmit to another person who does not have immunity. So we still need to follow public health guidance, we still need to wear masks, wash our hands and keep our distance for now.
“This is the ray of hope, this is the light at the end of the tunnel. And, you know, 2021 is already looking to be more promising than what 2020 has brought us.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Darren Markland, an ICU physician at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital, said he’s scheduled to receive his vaccine on Friday.
“Super excited. I think I’m going to document it so that anyone who is vaccine-hesitant can actually watch somebody they know get a vaccine and see if there’s any complications there. I will be completely honest,” he said from the hospital Tuesday morning.
Markland also noted, though, that it’s important to remember with the “vaccine euphoria” that it’s a long-term solution.
“The short one right now is really to buckle down and lock down. No matter how tempted you are, just avoid holiday celebrations because that’s what’s really going to get us,” he stressed.
“We’ve done this once before, we can do it again. Everybody’s tired but the finish line is so damn close. Let’s just enjoy next Christmas.”
It’s a sentiment Kenney echoed Tuesday afternoon.
“By the end of March, we will have hopefully vaccinated 10 per cent of our population, including the most vulnerable,” he said. “That will be a game changer. It should result in a significant decrease in the fatality rate from COVID. But, we won’t be out of the woods at the end of March.
“We’ve still got to go on to inoculate more seniors. The average age of hospitalizations is 60. There’s a lot of folks in their 50s who aren’t passing away from COVID but they are getting sick and ending up in hospital beds.”
If the province’s current timeline is followed, anyone who wants to be vaccinated should able to do so by next fall.
“We’ll continue to assess this month by month and week by week as we go through the first six months of next year,” Kenney said.
As the program continues, Alberta Health will be releasing public reporting that will include things like how many people have been vaccinated in the different zones.
The first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Alberta on Monday night, at the Calgary airport.
“We’ve just watched UPS unload our first 3,900 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine,” Kenney said in a video posted to Twitter. “It has now arrived here in Alberta as of 5 p.m.”
The vaccine arrived ahead of schedule. On Monday, the government said the first shipment was expected Tuesday and the first vaccine was likely to be administered on Wednesday.
Health-care workers, including ICU doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, and long-term care workers in Calgary and Edmonton are the first to receive the vaccine.
– With files from Caley Ramsay/Global News