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Shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine unexpectedly delayed as Alberta identifies 479 new cases

A shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that was expected to arrive in Alberta earlier this week was grounded outside of the province due to mechanical issues with the plane transporting doses.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the delay means 43 pharmacies participating in the vaccine rollout program will get the doses “a few days later than expected.”

“We understand that these sorts of delays are frustrating and we are delivering the vaccine as quickly as possible once it arrives in the province,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday.

“We are dealing with a supply chain that sometimes changes quickly without warning and we are working to get doses out as quickly as possible. This means that sometimes there will be minor changes when unexpected events occur.”

Click to play video: 'Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipment headed to Alberta grounded' Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipment headed to Alberta grounded
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipment headed to Alberta grounded – Mar 17, 2021

Hinshaw said the doses will be delivered to the pharmacies as soon as they arrive.

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She did not say how many doses were included in the shipment. It’s not known how many, if any, vaccine appointments will need to be rebooked due to the delay.

According to the government of Canada, Alberta’s allotment of the Moderna vaccine the week of March 8-14 was 47,600 doses. Alberta is scheduled to receive an additional 94,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine the week of March 22.

Canada’s Minister of Public Services & Procurement Anita Anand took to social media Tuesday to say Canada will receive all of its Moderna doses next week as planned.

“Canada is receiving all 846,000 doses of Moderna next week – there is no reduction,” Anand said. “That’s totalling just over 2 million Moderna doses by the end of this quarter, as planned.”

Daily COVID-19 numbers, variants of concern

Alberta reported 479 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and four additional deaths from the disease.

The new cases came as a result of about 10,800 tests, putting the province’s positivity rate at 4.7 per cent.

Of the 479 new cases, 50 were COVID-19 variants of concern, Hinshaw said. Variant cases of COVID-19 make up about 11 per cent of positive cases in Alberta, she noted.

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Hinshaw said the vast majority of variant cases — particularly the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first discovered in the U.K — is being spread in the community.

“The B.1.1.7. variant is spreading in many different contexts, in many different settings and we’re seeing higher attack rates than we typically do in settings where people are exposed,” she said.

“That variant has become established in the community. While we are continuing to work hard to slow its spread, it is spreading in all zones in our province.”

Click to play video: 'Most of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’s spread is community-based: Hinshaw' Most of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’s spread is community-based: Hinshaw
Most of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’s spread is community-based: Hinshaw – Mar 17, 2021

 Hinshaw said the variant cases are not just being spread indoors either.

“We have seen cases recently where variant COVID-19 has been transmitted outdoors when people are not distanced or masked. So please continue to apply precautions, even outside.”

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Read more: Have COVID-19 variants pushed Canada into a third wave of the pandemic?

Hinshaw said so far, cases of the P.1. variant, which was first identified in Brazil, and the B.1.351. variant, first identified in South Africa, “have been very small in number and linked to travel.”

None of the four deaths reported Wednesday were linked to outbreaks of COVID-19. All included comorbidities, according to Alberta Health.

Two of the deaths were reported in the Calgary zone: a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s. A man in his 40s in the South zone died, as well as a man in his 90s in the North zone. Alberta’s death toll from COVID-19 has reached 1,956.

Wednesday marked the second day in a row where none of the deaths reported were linked to long-term care. Hinshaw said it’s “very encouraging to see the downward trend.”

“It absolutely shows us the powerful impact that vaccination has had on long-term care residents, both in minimizing the chance of infection, as well as preventing deaths,” she said.

However, she said it’s also important to note that the people who live in long-term care are not the only ones at risk.

“We do, sadly, continue to see deaths occurring in individuals who live in the community who are at high risk, which is exactly why we need to hold on just a little bit longer to make sure we have the opportunity to provide immunization to all those who are of older age or who have chronic conditions before we make any changes that might put people at risk of being exposed.”

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There were 262 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 Wednesday, 44 of whom were being treated in intensive care.

Phase 2A continues to offer vaccine appointments to more age groups

Alberta will continue with Phase 2A of its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines Thursday, with three more age groups eligible to book vaccine appointments through the AHS online booking portal and 811.

Starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, Albertans born in 1952, 1953, 1954 or earlier, as well and First Nations, Metis and Inuit born in 1967, 1968, 1969 or earlier will be able to book their vaccine appointment online or through 811.

Participating pharmacies continue to book appointment for everyone 65 and older, as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1971 or earlier.

Hinshaw said anyone who has already booked an appointment through a pharmacy but wishes to get their vaccine sooner, can do so when their birth cohort is eligible through 811 or the AHS online portal.

However, she stressed the importance of cancelling the original appointment booked through the pharmacy.

“Any Albertans who do have that appointment booked farther out, if they wish to get a vaccine sooner, will have the opportunity to do so.”

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Read more: AstraZeneca appointments still available 1 week after bookings opened up in Alberta

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Wednesday that Alberta has given first doses to 63 per cent of Albertans over 75. That breaks down to about 60 per cent of Albertans aged 75-79 and 66 per cent of Albertans 80 and older, Shandro said.

“We continue to connect with seniors groups and facilities, and we expect these numbers to continue rising in the coming weeks,” Shandro tweeted.

“Alberta is getting doses to Albertans as quickly as possible.”

As of March 16, 397,492 doses of vaccine had been administered in Alberta, with 92,081 Albertans fully immunized with two doses.

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