The Alberta regions hardest hit by COVID-19 will be receiving additional vaccine support.
In a news conference Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced changes to vaccine rollout for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Banff.
Alberta’s Johnson and Johnson vaccine shipment, expected to be received next Monday, will be directed to the two regions, which are experiencing the highest rates of COVID-19 in the province. (Click here to view Alberta’s daily COVID-19 numbers.)
An eligibility age of 30+ years will be set for AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson for those regions. The current age for AstraZeneca eligibility is 40+ years in Alberta.
“But Dr. Hinshaw, in consult with experts, has decided acceleration would be helpful in addressing the outbreak,” Kenney said.
Eligibility for the Moderna vaccine in adjacent First Nation communities will be lowered to 30+ in that zone.
Kenney said vaccine hours will also be extended to 10 p.m. in Fort McMurray. The vaccination clinic on MacDonald Island was previously only open between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., which RMWB officials said made it difficult for shift workers to get their dose.
“We will develop strategies with community leadership to encourage vaccine uptake and make it more convenient,” Kenney said.
Read more: North zone sees lower vaccination rates as Fort McMurray experiences spike in COVID-19 cases
Health officials, including Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Hinshaw met with community leaders, including RMWB Mayor Don Scott on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning with First Nations Leaders including Chief Allan Adam.
On Tuesday, 11 First Nations and Métis Nations of the RMWB called upon the province of Alberta to immediately change its approach to COVID-19 — citing measures such as shifting the Northland School Division to online learning and closing non-essential businesses.
Adam told Global News on Wednesday morning that he was disappointed the province did not accept the other proposed changes that were put forward.
Read more: State of local emergency declared in Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo amid high COVID-19 cases
“We are actively considering additional targeted measures in the hardest hit areas of the province,” Kenney said. “I understand and hear their concerns.”
During a Monday news conference, Kenney mentioned potential vaccine hesitancy among First Nations. The comment drew criticism from Chief Adam, who felt the premier’s comments placed blame on the population for the spread.
Read more: ‘There is a lot of mistrust’: Researchers look at vaccine hesitancy among Indigenous Canadians
“We were responding to concerns being raised by First Nations,” Kenney said. “They are right to be concerned.
“The point I was making is that given the health sensitivity of Indigenous communities to COVID-19, we have provided easier and broader access.”
Daily COVID-19 numbers
On Wednesday, Alberta Health said 1,839 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the last 24 hours. Over the same time period, nearly 19,000 tests were done, putting Alberta’s positivity rate at 9.7 per cent.
One-thousand, fifty-eight cases involving variants of concern were identified Wednesday. Variant cases make up about 63 per cent of Alberta’s 20,938 active COVID-19 cases.
There are 643 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 145 of whom are being treated in ICUs.
Alberta Health said six additional deaths due to COVID-19 had been reported over the last 24 hours. All six were men and five included comorbidities.
A man in his 80s and a man in his 60s from the South zone, a man in his 80s in the North zone, a man in his 60s from the Central Zone, and a man in his 70s from the Calgary zone died. A man in his 50s from the Central zone was the only case where there were no known comorbidities.
As of April 27, 1,497,256 doses of vaccine have been administered in Alberta.
By the end of the day on April 26, provincial data shows 19.2 per cent of people in the North zone had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In the Edmonton zone, that number was 28.8 per cent.
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