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Hinshaw says COVID-19 vaccine appears to be somewhat effective against variants

Click to play video: 'Alberta confirms 11 additional cases of COVID-19 variant' Alberta confirms 11 additional cases of COVID-19 variant
Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Thursday the province has identified 11 additional cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant. – Feb 4, 2021

As Alberta confirmed 11 additional COVID-19 cases involving novel coronavirus variants, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said early research suggests the existing vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna appear to be effective in preventing severe cases related to such infections.

“Evidence is still emerging of the effectiveness of the vaccine on the variants,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said on Thursday. “It’s important to remember the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are only a few months old, just like the variants.

“There is much we do not yet know, though researchers around the world are investigating.”

On Thursday, Alberta Health said no additional cases have been confirmed at the daycare, though “widespread testing” was still underway.

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s makes protocol changes to help prevent COVID-19 variant spread' Alberta’s makes protocol changes to help prevent COVID-19 variant spread
Alberta’s makes protocol changes to help prevent COVID-19 variant spread – Feb 4, 2021

Hinshaw said early research suggests while the current vaccines may be somewhat less effective in terms of preventing all symptoms of COVID-19, they are effective in reducing the severity of the infection.

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“These vaccines still appear to be extremely effective at preventing severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” she said.

All 11 new variant cases are of the B.1.1.7 variant which was first discovered in the U.K. Seven of those cases had no link to travel.

“Investigation is underway with detailed followup of all these cases and their contacts,” Hinshaw said.

Read more: Hinshaw explains Alberta’s more cautious approach to easing COVID-19 restrictions

Two of the new cases are related to travel and have potentially exposed two additional schools in the Calgary zone.

“We are actively reviewing the literature and experience around the globe to assess if additional measures are needed in schools and other settings in the weeks ahead,” Hinshaw said. “Evidence is still emerging but we are watching closely. If we need to make changes, we will do so.”

Click to play video: 'Experts say more action needed to curb variant spread and potential 3rd wave' Experts say more action needed to curb variant spread and potential 3rd wave
Experts say more action needed to curb variant spread and potential 3rd wave – Feb 3, 2021

Of the new cases of the variants, Hinshaw said all were already quarantined because of a positive COVID-19 test when they got the positive results from the variant test.

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All close contacts of people who test positive for a variant are now being offered two tests.

There have now been 68 variant cases in Alberta in total.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw said four variant cases were linked to an Alberta daycare outbreak.

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At that time, families were still being notified so the daycare was not identified.

Read more: Two Calgary schools, one Alberta daycare, linked to COVID-19 variant: Hinshaw

On Thursday, Hinshaw said she could share that the daycare was in the Edmonton zone, which Global News confirmed is Tot Spot Academy in St. Albert. ‘

“All the individuals associated with that daycare have now been contacted,” she said.

“Additional testing is underway and the protocols relevant to variants of concern have been put in place with respect to those who are cases and close contacts at that particular daycare.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta now has 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variant' Alberta now has 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variant
Alberta now has 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variant – Feb 4, 2021

Read more: Feds asked vaccine makers to produce COVID-19 shots in Canada. All said no

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On Thursday, Hinshaw confirmed an additional 582 cases of COVID-19. However, due to an error in reporting, the results of about 6,000 lab tests were not included in Wednesday’s numbers and those numbers were reported Thursday.

“This was a one-time error that only affected our public reporting, not the notification of any positive cases,” Hinshaw said.

Of the numbers announced Friday, 421 were identified over the past 24 hours.

Click to play video: 'Alberta identifies 421 new cases of COVID-19, 13 deaths Thursday' Alberta identifies 421 new cases of COVID-19, 13 deaths Thursday
Alberta identifies 421 new cases of COVID-19, 13 deaths Thursday – Feb 4, 2021

Hinshaw said Wednesday’s positivity rate was unaffected by the error. The positivity rate on Thursday was about 3.6 per cent.

There were 517 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday, with 93 of those people in the ICU.

“We continue to see a decline in our hospitalizations, which benefits every Albertan,” Hinshaw said.

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An additional 13 deaths due to COVID-19 were confirmed on Thursday.

Of the five deaths reported from the Edmonton zone, three were linked to outbreaks: a woman in her 90s linked to the Chartwell St. Albert Retirement Residence, a man in his 90s linked to the Miller Crossing Care Centre outbreak and a man in his 90s who was linked to the outbreak at Summerwood Village Retirement residence have died. All three people had known comorbidities.

Elsewhere in the zone, a woman and a man in their 70s have died. According to Alberta Health, the woman had known comorbidities but comorbidities were unknown in the man’s case.

In the Calgary zone, there were five deaths. Of those, two were linked to outbreaks: a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at AgeCare Glenmore and a man in his 70s linked to the AgeCare Walden Heights outbreak have died. Both cases included comorbidities.

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Also in the Calgary zone, a man in his 50s and a man in his 60s have died. Comorbidities are unknown in both cases. A woman in her 80s with known comorbidities has also died.

There were two deaths reported from the Central zone. One death, a man in his 80s, was linked to the outbreak at Seasons Camrose. That case included comorbidities. A man in his 60s has also died. Alberta Health said comorbidities are unknown at this time.

Finally, there was one death in the South zone. A woman in her 40s with unknown comorbidities has died.

Alberta’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 1,684.

“We can never forget these numbers represent human lives lost,” Hinshaw said.

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“These are not just statistics. These were people who leave behind grieving family members, co-workers, friends, neighbours and community members.”

As of Thursday, there were active alerts or outbreaks in 304 schools with a combined 763 cases in schools.

To date, Alberta has immunized more than 21,700 Albertans and more than 112,000 doses of vaccine have been administered.

Hinshaw said there had not been a significant increase in the rate of adverse reactions to the vaccine. To date, there have been 53 events reported. Of those, 11 events were allergic reactions and those people will be seeing an allergist before their next appointment.

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw urges Albertans to get COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to them' Hinshaw urges Albertans to get COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to them
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to them – Feb 4, 2021

According to Hinshaw, the other reactions have been swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, vomiting or a rash.

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– With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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