Alberta’s chief medical officer of health revealed Monday who in the province will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in the next two phases of its rollout.
At a news conference in Edmonton, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said about 368,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the province to date, with Alberta still in Phase 2A of its rollout plan.
Once 2A is complete, the province’s top doctor said Alberta will continue to focus on people most at risk of severe outcome from COVID-19 because of “limited supply” of the vaccine.
“I know many Albertans have been anxiously waiting to see if their conditions will be eligible,” Hinshaw acknowledged. “I appreciate their patience.”
In Phase 2B, Albertans born between 1957 and 2005 who live with what Alberta Health describes as certain “high-risk underlying health conditions” will be eligible for the vaccine.
Hinshaw said as long as there is no supply shortage, health authorities expect Phase 2B to begin in April.
Among the health conditions that make Albertans eligible in Phase 2B are congenital heart disease, chronic heart failure, chronic respiratory disease, chronic kidney diseases, certain chronic neurological diseases, diabetes that requires medication as well as people undergoing chemotherapy or treatment for HIV. The list of what conditions make one eligible for vaccination in Phase 2B is extensive. For a complete list, click here.
“I appreciate this list is complicated,” Hinshaw said, adding that Albertans should check the comprehensive list of who is eligible that has been posted on the Alberta government’s website. “This list is based on the recommendations of the Alberta advisory committee on immunization.
“The health conditions that we are prioritizing were carefully considered based on our experience in Alberta and evidence from around the world. All of these conditions are associated with a higher risk of death or hospitalization, even in younger age groups, when comparing their risks to those people aged 50 to 64 with no underlying conditions. These conditions are complex and every patient is unique.”
Hinshaw said the province plans to use the honour system so that people who are eligible for vaccination in Phase 2A will not be required to prove they have one of the medical conditions listed. She noted that like in Phase 2A, people eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 2B will be able to book their appointments through pharmacies or through Alberta Health Services when their birth year becomes eligible.
Hinshaw also outlined who will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine shot in Phase 2C, once Phase 2B is complete. Phase 2C will see health-care workers working in patient care facilities or providing direct patient care in the community become eligible for vaccination.
“Protecting health-care workers who have been caring for COVID-19 patients for more than a year provides protection to every patient accessing care across the health-care system,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said Phase 2C will also see workers at meat-packing plants become eligible for the vaccine.
Others who will become eligible for vaccination in Phase 2C are primary caregivers of Albertans whom Alberta Health says “are most at risk of severe outcomes.”
“(We are) recognizing the important support that loves ones play in care of those at risk,” Hinshaw said.
The list of people eligible for vaccination in Phase 2C is extensive. For a complete breakdown of Phase 2C eligibility, click here.
Hinshaw comments on AstraZeneca concerns
Hinshaw was asked about a number of European countries suspending the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine amid reports that some recipients experienced blood clots after being vaccinated with the product.
She said “vaccine safety is something that we take extremely seriously” and noted the version of the AstraZeneca vaccine that is used in Alberta is called Covishield.
“At this point in time, there’s nothing to indicate that the particular vaccine we’re using in Alberta is causing any kind of safety signals like the ones that we’re seeing in Europe,” Hinshaw explained. “We have been monitoring in Alberta, not just our own vaccine experiences after people have received the vaccine, but of course watching closely around the world.
“It’s really important for people to know that when the issues were identified in a small number of people in a few countries in Europe… we’re looking at several factors.”
Hinshaw said one of those factors is whether health issues reported in some people who received a particular vaccine is more frequent “than you would expect in the general population.”
“I want to reiterate that there have been more than 11-million doses given in the U.K., and more than five-million doses given in Europe, and the number of reported incidents is very small,” she said.
“In addition to that, sometimes when there is a particular lot or batch where there’s some issue that’s flagged, that particular lot or batch is held back, and as you know, we don’t have the same lot or batch that was delivered in Europe.”
As of Sunday, Alberta Health said 368,124 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the province, with 91,593 people having received both their doses. Since the vaccination process began in the province, Alberta health authorities have identified that 143 “adverse events following immunization” had been reported to them.
Latest COVID-19 numbers in Alberta
Hinshaw said Monday that Alberta Health identified 364 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours out of about 6,600 tests. She said the province’s positivity rate is at about 5.5 per cent.
Of the new cases, Hinshaw said 65 involve variants of concern.
Alberta Health said that as of Monday, it has identified 985 COVID-19 cases involving variants of concern with 474 of those being considered active cases.
Hinshaw noted Alberta’s R value — an indicator of the rate of spread in the community — over the past week was 1.07.
“We must redouble our efforts,” she said, “so we can drive Alberta’s R value below 1.00.”
Any R value of 1.00 or more is generally considered an indication that transmission of the novel coronavirus is increasing.
Alberta Health said Monday that it had confirmed three more COVID-19 fatalities. All three cases included comorbidities.
The people who died were a man in his 60s in the South zone, a man in his 80s in the Edmonton zone and a woman in her 90s in the Calgary zone.
“My deepest sympathies go to the friends, family and colleagues,” Hinshaw said.
As of Monday afternoon, there were 4,811 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta. Of those, 255 were in hospital and 42 were being treated in intensive care units.