The second shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine has arrived in Alberta.
Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement Tuesday afternoon that 25,350 additional doses of the vaccine have arrived in the province.
Of those, Edmonton and Calgary will receive 6,825 doses each and 1,950 will go to Red Deer. The remaining 9,750 will go to 10 rural centres across the province, including vaccine sites in Brooks, Camrose, Drumheller, Edson, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Pincher Creek and St. Paul. Each of these 10 communities will receive 975 vaccine doses.
Kenney said the new doses will be administered in the coming days.
As of Dec. 21, 3,074 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Alberta with no reported adverse events following immunization.
Alberta’s first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which included 3,900 doses, arrived last Monday night in Calgary. The first doses were in the arms of health-care workers in Calgary and Edmonton by last Tuesday afternoon.
Because of the vaccine’s ultra-cold storage requirements, the first doses are being allocated for health-care professionals, including ICU doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers in Calgary and Edmonton.
All of the doses in the first and second shipments, approximately 29,000, will be administered to health-care workers, Health Minister Tyler Shandro previously said.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose to be effective, and should be administered about a month after the first dose.
Alberta’s overall vaccine rollout plan
As more shipments arrive in early January, the province said immunization will focus on priority populations and will include residents of long-term care and designated supportive living facilities, followed by seniors aged 75 and over and First Nations on reserve, Inuit and on-settlement Metis individuals aged 65 and over.
Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout plan is expected to start by April 2021 and will be targeted to the next groups of prioritized populations. Final decisions regarding eligibility in Phase 2 have not yet been determined, according to the province.
Phase 3 will involve rolling out vaccinations to the general Alberta population, and is anticipated to start in the fall of 2021.
“A lot of it is going to depend on when other vaccines get approved by Health Canada, and when those manufacturers can provide those doses to Alberta,” Shandro said Tuesday. “How quickly, more quickly, we can move to priority group B as well as to Phase 2 is going to depend on when we can get those other vaccines.”
Alberta makes minor change to COVID-19 restrictions for single people
Kenney also announced minor changes to the province’s public health restrictions for a few days over Christmas.
From Dec. 23 to Dec. 28, the province will allow single Albertans to attend one event at another household. Households may host up to two single people for an event, the premier added.
Kenney said the change was made based on advice from the health minister following consultation with the chief medical officer of health and the COVID-19 cabinet committee.
“It will make a world of difference for single Albertans who otherwise would not be able to visit their families over Christmas,” Kenney said.
“The prohibition on large social gatherings remains over Christmas and I regret that we could not make broader exemptions for holiday gatherings.”
Kenney said the province looked at other jurisdictions around the world and across Canada, and “every other province is permitting a variation of this permission for a single individual to join one other household at Christmas.”
“I think this comes back to the need to balance it with the mental health imperative… if this is one small way that some people who feel particularly isolated at Christmas can have a renewed sense of connection of being cared for, then I think that is a reasonable measure for us to take.”
Kenney said the province’s COVID-19 cabinet committee discussed many options for family gatherings over the holidays, but ultimately said it was clear that the “huge spike in cases that we experienced over the past two months clearly began around dining room tables at Thanksgiving, intimate gatherings where people got together, never expecting that those family gatherings would be the source of transmission.”
Kenney said at that time, there were a few dozen Albertans in hospital with COVID-19. Now, there are more than 800 people in hospital with the disease.
“If we were to gather in typical large, extended-family gatherings over the Christmas holidays, beginning with 800 people in hospital, there is absolutely no doubt that we would lose all of the progress that we have made in recent weeks, that we would be back into exponential growth,” Kenney said.
“It wouldn’t take very much for those 800 cases in hospital to turn into 1,600 and for the 1,600 to turn into 3,200.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said each individual can only attend one event during this time, adding people still have the option of hosting virtual gatherings instead.
Hinshaw said it’s important for those gathering with people at higher risk of severe outcomes to follow safety measures for the entire visit.
“Please find a way to ensure that that person can participate in the event while still being able to maintain two metres of distance from all others,” she stressed.
“You can also take practical steps to protect them by making sure they have access to hand sanitizer at all times and you can consider asking others not typically in contact with that person to wear masks while in a room with them where distancing may not be possible at all times.”
Tuesday’s COVID-19 case numbers
Alberta reported 1,021 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. That was out of about 14,199 tests, according to the premier. The provincial positivity rate was 7.2 per cent.
Kenney said Alberta has made “tremendous progress” battling COVID-19 in the last couple of weeks.
“I’m asking for all of us to keep observing the rules. Together, we have come a long way and we have a long way to keep going.”
Kenney added that most of the impact Alberta is seeing right now in terms of lower daily COVID-19 cases is a result of the public health measures that came into effect in November, not the most recent round of restrictions.
“The most stringent restrictions that came into force 10 days ago, we will only begin to start to see the impact of that in the days to come,” Kenney said.
There were 11 additional deaths reported Tuesday, bringing the province’s death toll to 871.
Alberta Health reported 11 additional deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday. One was a man in his 40s in the Central zone. Alberta Health said comorbidities are not known at this time.
Out of the 11 fatalities, nine were connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
A man in his 60s linked to the outbreak at Points West Living in the Central zone passed away, along with a woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Salem Manor in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Jasper Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge in the North zone, a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Miller Crossing Care Centre in the Edmonton zone, a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 100s linked to the outbreak at Jasper Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge in the North zone, a woman in her 70s linked to the outbreak at Agecare Walden Heights in the Calgary zone, a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Clifton Manor in the Calgary zone and a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Rosedale Estates in the Edmonton zone.
A woman in her 70s in the South zone not connected to an outbreak also died.
As of Tuesday afternoon there were 802 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 152 of whom were being treated in intensive care.