Alberta slams federal rollout of COVID-19 vaccine as positivity rate sits at 3.9%

Click to play video: 'Alberta health minister is furious over vaccine delivery changes' Alberta health minister is furious over vaccine delivery changes
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says Ottawa has failed Albertans. The federal government has updated vaccine delivery expectations this quarter and they indicate fewer-than-expected vials of Pfizer vaccine will arrive — but Ottawa also says that doesn't actually mean fewer doses. Fletcher Kent explains – Jan 28, 2021

After Global News learned Canada will be receiving hundreds of thousands fewer doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine than expected, Alberta’s health minister is calling the news a “failure” on the part of the federal government.

“The federal government is failing Canadians,” Tyler Shandro said Thursday. “This is a grim situation that seems to be getting worse every week.

“We know that life for Canadians will not begin returning to something resembling normal until our most vulnerable are immunized.”

Read more: Officials insist Canada still on track for 4M Pfizer doses by March despite planning data

Alberta was expecting to receive fewer doses after it was announced the company was scaling up its European manufacturing capacity, but the work would affect vaccine supply for a short period.

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According to Shandro, the provincial government was told Alberta’s share of the vaccines still received would be reduced between 20 and 80 per cent over four weeks.

Then Alberta found out the province wouldn’t receive any vaccine at all during the last week of January, but the federal government said the temporary reductions would be made up for in the remainder of the first quarter.

Click to play video: 'Alberta health-care workers frustrated by how delayed COVID-19 vaccination was dealt with' Alberta health-care workers frustrated by how delayed COVID-19 vaccination was dealt with
Alberta health-care workers frustrated by how delayed COVID-19 vaccination was dealt with – Jan 28, 2021

On Thursday, the province found out Alberta will receive 63,000 fewer vaccines in the first quarter of this year.

“This means 63,000 more Albertans will not receive this life-saving vaccine,” Shandro said.

“Prime Minister Trudeau, Health Minister Hajdu, and Public Services and Procurement Minister Anand need to come clean with Canadians and fix this now. Anything less is unacceptable.”

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Read more: ‘Temporary delay’ chops Canada’s deliveries of Pfizer vaccine in half for four weeks

To date, Shandro said Alberta has administered 102,524 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 12,000 Albertans have also received their second dose and Shandro said the province is ready to continue its vaccination program.

“But they’re not coming,” he said.

“This is the latest in a series of unfulfilled promises from the federal government. Ottawa continues to fail us and fail all Albertans.”

Click to play video: 'No details yet on Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout' No details yet on Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout
No details yet on Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout – Jan 27, 2021

Lorian Hardcastle, a professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, said the province is misleading the public with comments like this about the vaccine rollout, while speaking with Global News on Wednesday about the province’s response to these ongoing delays.

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“Yes, maybe there are things the federal government didn’t do perfectly that Premier (Jason) Kenney or Minister Shandro could critique Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on, but the issue with the factory in Belgium is just not one of those things.”

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Hardcastle pointed to the fact that every country in the world wants this vaccine and nobody has as much as they want. She says the cracks are being seen not only in Canada where premiers are critiquing the federal government for something largely out of its control, but are being seen on the international stage as well.

“Some European countries are talking about, how can we keep this drug potentially from being exported and I think the important thing is not to fall apart and be punitive relative to one another.”

Click to play video: '‘Ottawa continues to fail us’: Alberta health minister slams feds over vaccines' ‘Ottawa continues to fail us’: Alberta health minister slams feds over vaccines
‘Ottawa continues to fail us’: Alberta health minister slams feds over vaccines – Jan 28, 2021

In a statement, NDP health critic David Shepherd echoed Hardcastle’s sentiment. Shepherd said he understands the continued delays are frustrating, but it’s unacceptable the province hasn’t released its plans for who will be included in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout and how those decisions will be made.

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“Other provinces have done this while facing the same frustrating lack of supply. The bottom line is this: when the vaccine gets here, we need to be ready for it.”

A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the province currently has enough vaccine to carry out all second doses within the 42-day time frame, but if there are any further delays, that schedule would be in jeopardy.

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

Kenney was originally scheduled to join Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw Thursday afternoon at the daily COVID-19 update, but after a security incident at Calgary’s McDougall Centre where Kenney was going to speak, the province confirmed he would no longer be joining Hinshaw.

Calgary police were called when a man was spotted on the building’s scaffolding. According to a news release from police, the man tried to get inside rather than come down when he spotted police.

The man was arrested and removed without incident. Police believe the incident was random and don’t think the man was targeting government.

Possible changes to vial doses

On Wednesday, it was revealed Pfizer is asking Health Canada to stretch each vial of vaccine from five doses to six. The move would allow the company to still meet its contractual obligations to send 40 million doses, but Canada would receive fewer vials.

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Read more: Pfizer pushes Health Canada to stretch vaccine doses per vial as demand mounts

While Alberta Health Services immunizers are experienced in vaccine management, it’s a move that neither Shandro nor Dr. Deena Hinshaw support.

According to Hinshaw, immunizers have been able to get a sixth dose from just over 50 per cent of vials in Alberta; a number she said is consistent with what other provinces are reporting.

To do that, a specific syringe needs to be used. While AHS has a supply of these syringes, they are in global demand because they are needed to extract that sixth dose.

Click to play video: 'Alberta slams federal rollout of COVID-19 vaccine and shipment uncertainty' Alberta slams federal rollout of COVID-19 vaccine and shipment uncertainty
Alberta slams federal rollout of COVID-19 vaccine and shipment uncertainty – Jan 28, 2021

Even if Alberta were able to get enough of the specific syringes to immunize all Albertans, she said it’s estimated immunizers would only be successful in withdrawing that extra dose about 75 per cent of the time.

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Daily COVID-19 numbers

Hinshaw confirmed Alberta has recorded an additional 461 news cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours. More than 12,300 tests were performed in that same time frame and Alberta’s positivity rate now sits at about 3.9 per cent.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 591 people in hospital, with 112 of those people in the ICU.

Hinshaw said seven additional COVID-19 deaths had been reported to health officials in the previous 24 hours.

Three of the seven deaths were reported in the Edmonton zone. A woman in her 90s who was linked to the outbreak at the Good Samaritan Southgate Centre and a man in his 90s linked to the Summerwood Village Retirement Residence have died. Alberta Health said both had known comorbidities.

A man in his 80s has also died in that zone. He also had known comorbidities.

Three deaths were confirmed in the Calgary zone. A woman in her 80s with known comorbidities has died. She was linked to the outbreak at Academy of Aging.

A man in his 40s with unknown comorbidities and a woman in her 50s with no known comorbidities have also died in the Calgary zone.

The other death reported in Alberta was a woman in her 60s from the North zone. Her case included comorbidities.

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Thursday marked the first time since Dec. 21 that fewer than 10 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in a 24-hour period.

As for schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 300 schools, or about 12 per cent of Alberta schools. There are 593 cases in schools, Hinshaw said.

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