It has been three weeks since the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Alberta.
Now, three weeks later, people can start receiving their second dose to be fully vaccinated.
The number of Albertans receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is on the rise but it’s only slowly getting to where it needs to be.
The province initially set a goal of vaccinating 29,000 Albertans by the end of 2020.
But, on Dec. 29, the premier admitted Alberta wouldn’t reach that goal. He said it was because Alberta Health Services had been “cautiously” holding back half the vaccine for those required second doses and because Pfizer said the shot could only be given at the location the vaccine was delivered.
The province is hopeful its plan to ramp up the rollout will help dramatically change the daily rate of doses.
On Jan. 4, Alberta administered more than 3,408 vaccine doses, bringing the total amount since Dec. 15 to 26,269. That’s nearly 57 per cent of the total doses (46,150) available in the province as of that same day.
If this daily pace is maintained until Sept. 1, Alberta will administer 814,512 doses but each person needs two doses to be fully vaccinated. The math doesn’t add up in a population of roughly 4.4 million people.
But Alberta’s health minister Tyler Shandro said the daily doses will ramp up when the supply does.
“I hope to see the daily number increase but I emphasize again, it depends on when the shipments come.”
The health minister hasn’t said exactly how quickly or when Alberta Health Services will be able to scale up vaccinations — the premier previously projected 4,000 a day.
Shandro did say that pharmacists are expected to join the vaccine rollout to help as more supply comes in.
According to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, more vaccines were in the air and on their way to being delivered. By the end of Tuesday, the province will have another five days worth of stock at the current rate.
“This week, the shipments that are on their way are Pfizer doses and I believe we’re expecting 13,000 doses this week,” Hinshaw said.
In terms of vaccine rollout, Phase 1A includes health-care and home-care workers as well as some emergency room staff, Shandro said Tuesday. The province hopes to complete that phase by the end of January.
Phase 1B will include the immunization of seniors over 75 years, residents of First Nations and Metis on reserve who are older than 65, more health-care workers on medical, surgical or COVID-19 units and operating rooms. That phase will likely be in February, Shando said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is optimistic that every Canadian will be vaccinated by the fall.
“I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get vaccines to every Canadian that wants them by September. That is certainly our goal and we are very much on track towards that.”
Infectious disease expert Dr. Lynora Saxinger thinks Albertans will see a rapid change in the rollout within weeks.
“To get the province vaccinated the way we’d like it to be vaccinated it really will end up requiring over 20,000 people per day to be vaccinated if we wanted to get everyone by the end of the summer.
“That’s a pretty tall order but I think we’re going to see a lot of changes in the coming weeks.”
Saxinger’s expectation is that once the province starts community based vaccinations with the elderly, hospitalizations will drop quickly.
Vaccinations will be added in evenings, weekends, holidays and at least 45 sites across the province as more vaccine becomes available in Alberta.