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Hinshaw responds to Moderna approval, announces 19 more COVID-19 deaths in Alberta

On Wednesday, in her last in-person update before Christmas, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Alberta has recorded 1,301 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

Over that time, more than 19,000 tests were completed. That means Alberta’s positivity rate is about 6.8 per cent.

As of Wednesday, there were 821 Albertans in hospital, 146 of whom were in intensive care.

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Alberta Health announced Wednesday there had been 19 additional deaths due to COVID-19. All of them were connected to outbreaks at continuing care or hospital facilities.

Click to play video: 'Alberta records 19 deaths associated to COVID-19 on Wednesday'
Alberta records 19 deaths associated to COVID-19 on Wednesday

A woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Mayerthorpe Extendicare in North Zone died, along with a woman in her 100s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in Edmonton Zone, a woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Strathcona in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Strathcona in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in Edmonton Zone and a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Strathcona in Edmonton Zone.

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A man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Agecare Walden Heights in Calgary Zone also passed away, along with a woman in her 100s linked to the outbreak at Terra Losa Lifestyle Options in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Devonshire Village in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Youville Home in Edmonton Zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Carewest Dr. Vernon Fanning Centre in Calgary Zone, a man in his 60s linked to the outbreak at Dulcina Hospice Calgary in Calgary Zone, a woman in her 70s linked to the outbreak at Dulcina Hospice Calgary in Calgary Zone, a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Glamorgan Care Centre in Calgary Zone, a woman in her 100s linked to the outbreak at Agecare Skypointe in Calgary Zone, a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton Zone and a woman in her 60s linked to the outbreak at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton Zone.

“This time of year can be especially painful for those mourning the loss of a loved one,” Hinshaw said, extending her deep condolences to anyone coping with a loss.

Click to play video: 'Alberta continues to look at best way to allocate ‘scarce supply’ of COVID-19 vaccine'
Alberta continues to look at best way to allocate ‘scarce supply’ of COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna vaccine

Hinshaw said Health Canada’s approval of the Moderna vaccine was good news.

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“Exact amounts and timing for Alberta are still being determined.”

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She said Alberta has been preparing to receive the Moderna vaccine for “many months,” ensuring the appropriate infrastructure – including freezers – are in place. Hinshaw said planning is underway to determine dose numbers and where they will go.

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The Moderna vaccine offers more flexibility than the Pfizer one, she added, as it can be taken to sites like long-term care homes to be offered there. It can be stored in regular freezers, as opposed to the -70 C refrigerators needed to safely store the Pfizer vaccine.

Hinshaw said the Moderna vaccine won’t likely arrive in Alberta until after Christmas.

“We don’t yet have those finalized details about the exact dates when they’ll arrive.

“It’s extremely unlikely that they’ll be arriving in the next day or two. It takes some time to plan all of that out,” she explained.

“We’ll continue working with the federal government and when we have that specific timeline and those specific numbers, we’ll be able to communicate more broadly what those plans are. But given that today we’re not able to determine those final details, I would anticipate they’re not going to be arriving today or tomorrow or over the weekend.”

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Hinshaw was asked how the province is determining who is eligible for the vaccine as more becomes available. She said the ethical framework considers risk: who’s more at risk and who’s at risk of a more severe outcome from the virus.

Click to play video: 'Health Canada approves Moderna coronavirus vaccine'
Health Canada approves Moderna coronavirus vaccine

She stressed that there are so many front-line workers who provide valuable services and care Albertans rely on. There were “many, many options” for vaccine rollout, she said.

Determinations around which health-care workers were offered the vaccine in the first round – and which sectors weren’t — should not be seen as a valuation of their work, Hinshaw said.

Who will be included in the second round of vaccine rollout will be decided “early in the New Year,” she said. The province is looking at long-term care – residents and workers, she added, and regions hardest hit by the virus.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta will discuss final details of Moderna vaccine rollout after receiving details from Ottawa'
Alberta will discuss final details of Moderna vaccine rollout after receiving details from Ottawa

However, the vaccine’s approval doesn’t change how serious this virus is and how Albertans must respond, she said.

She stressed people must reduce in-person interactions as much as possible, continue to physically distance, wear masks and wash hands often – especially over the holidays.

Thanksgiving gatherings fueled a spike in cases and hospitalizations that Alberta is still trying to get under control, Hinshaw explained. And now, our active case numbers are four to five times higher than they were prior to Thanksgiving.

Click to play video: 'Moderna vaccine approved in Canada, B.C. health officials to release modelling data at 3 p.m.'
Moderna vaccine approved in Canada, B.C. health officials to release modelling data at 3 p.m.

Federal officials have said they expect doses of the Moderna vaccine to arrive in Canada within 48 hours of approval. The government has inked a deal to get 168,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of December.

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“Now that Health Canada has approved the Moderna vaccine, we have the green light to start rolling it out across the country … the first doses of our 40-million dose order from Moderna will arrive in the coming days,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday morning.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician based in Toronto, said news that a second vaccine is approved for use in Canada is “just phenomenal.”

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“It’s great news for a few reasons. The first reason is that Canada has more access to more vaccine. That’s fantastic in and of itself,” he said Wednesday morning.

“The second reason is that when you look at the data for the Moderna vaccine, it’s phenomenal. It really appears to be a safe and effective vaccine and let’s see if this really translates into real-world practice when it’s rolled out widely throughout Canada. And the third point is that it’s just a mush easier vaccine to use. It’s a little more durable than the Pfizer vaccine so this is a vaccine that can readily be taken into long-term care facilities and rural, remote or underserviced places and you can really do a lot of good with that.

“The Pfizer vaccine is a vaccine where you have to bring the people to the vaccine, but the Moderna vaccine is one where you can bring the vaccine to the people. I think between those two vaccines we can do a lot of good in the country.”

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Because of the easier transferability of the Moderna vaccine, Bogoch said he believes most provinces will administer it to those living in long-term care. So far, most provinces — including Alberta — have given the Pfizer vaccine to health-care workers because of its extreme-cold storage requirements.

“We know that, sadly, those people who are living in long-term care account for about 80 per cent of the 14,000 deaths that we’ve seen in the country. So there’s some significant good that can be done with this vaccine.”

On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that an additional 25,350 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine had arrived in Alberta.

Click to play video: 'Alberta receives 2nd batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine'
Alberta receives 2nd batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The additional doses are being distributed throughout Alberta and will be administered in the coming days, he said.

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As of Dec. 21, 3,074 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had already been administered in Alberta with no reported adverse events following immunization.

Read more: 2nd shipment of Pfizer vaccine arrives in Alberta as 1,021 new COVID-19 cases identified

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