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Alberta set to run out of COVID-19 vaccine supply, first dose appointments no longer offered

Click to play video 'Provinces grapple with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine production reduction' Provinces grapple with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine production reduction
WATCH: Provinces grapple with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine production reduction – Jan 18, 2021

Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta is set to run out of its COVID-19 vaccine supply by the end of Monday or early Tuesday.

“By the end of today, or early tomorrow, Albertans will have no more vaccine doses in storage to administer as first doses to Albertans,” Kenney said at a news conference Monday morning.

Kenney said the province has so far administered nearly 90,000 doses since vaccinations began on Dec. 15. But now, a delay in Canada’s supply of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has led to a low supply and pausing of first-dose appointments.

“We have quite simply run out of supply,” Kenney said.

While no new first-dose appointments will be made, second doses will continue as planned.

“Second-dose appointments will not be cancelled,” Kenney said. “We believe that we can administer second doses to all those who need them within the recommended time frame. ”

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The first phase of initial doses went to high-risk groups like seniors and staff in long-term care and designated supportive living, paramedics and emergency medical responders, and physicians and nurses in ICUs and staff on medical, surgical and COVID-19 units in the province’s hospitals.

Click to play video 'Alberta set to run out of COVID-19 vaccine; 1st dose appointments no longer offered' Alberta set to run out of COVID-19 vaccine; 1st dose appointments no longer offered
Alberta set to run out of COVID-19 vaccine; 1st dose appointments no longer offered – Jan 18, 2021

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said in her daily update Monday that the low vaccine supply means that Phase 1A will be paused and Phase 1B — which includes all seniors over 75 and Alberta First Nations members who are over 65 — will be delayed.

“I know it is challenging to have to wait for this to start. While we cannot control the amount of vaccine available, we are working hard to immunize Albertans as safely and effectively as possible,” Hinshaw said.

Click to play video 'Alberta pauses COVID-19 vaccine appointments for 1st injection as doses run low' Alberta pauses COVID-19 vaccine appointments for 1st injection as doses run low
Alberta pauses COVID-19 vaccine appointments for 1st injection as doses run low – Jan 18, 2021

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine logistics, said shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be reduced by an average of 50 per cent over the next four weeks.

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The delay is due to the company scaling up its European manufacturing capacity.

While the province will receive “some more doses” of the Pfizer vaccine this week and more in the coming weeks, Kenney said the government must focus on second doses.

“By pausing first appointments, we can ensure enough vaccine is allocated for committed second-dose appointments,” he said.

With the pause on new vaccinations, Hinshaw said there will be enough to cover all second doses needed.

“It does seem like we have enough vaccine in hand, as well as what’s been committed — even with the reduction — in the Pfizer supplies, to be able to offer that second dose to all who have booked it,” she said.

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Kenney expressed disappointment over the situation and the delay in the next phase of the vaccine rollout.

“The shipments we’ve received do not match the pace of which we’re able to vaccinate Albertans. I’m deeply disappointed in the situation that we are now facing,” he said.

The province also announced Monday that it has now completed the first doses of vaccination at all of Alberta’s 357 long-term care and designated supported living facilities.

Hinshaw said that around 66 per cent of all provincial COVID-19 fatalities in the province were related to those in long-term and designated supportive living facilities.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine delay a ‘blow,’ will affect Alberta’s vaccine schedule: health minister

Kenney said looking forward, he is working to see if it’s possible Alberta could enter into its own bilateral purchase agreements with other vaccine producers following the delay.

“Perhaps there’s an opportunity for us to acquire supplementary supply,” he said. “But right now, that’s some way off in the distance, because none of those other companies have yet gone through phase three trials, nor have they applied for or obtained approval by Health Canada.”

The Canadian government signed deals with pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna in August 2020 to secure doses for Canadians.

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–with files from Melissa Gilligan, Global News

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