Alberta has hit yet another milestone in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, surpassing two million doses administered. It comes as Alberta recorded 1,558 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. (Full daily COVID data below).
“Thank you to every single person that has gotten their shot, please encourage everyone you know to be immunized,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday.
“The response has been excellent and I want to thank every individual who is choosing to be vaccinated.”
So far, Alberta has administered 2,019,713 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 322,247 Albertans are fully immunized with two doses.
That translates to about 38 per cent of the population having received one dose of the vaccine and 7.2 per cent of Albertans fully immunized.
“For those who are asking whether they should get vaccinated, the answer is yes,” Premier Jason Kenney said in a news release Thursday.
“By stepping up to receive the vaccine, we are protecting ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and helping this province to move forward. The sooner we can get everyone 12 years and older vaccinated, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us and look toward a brighter future for all Albertans.”
Hinshaw said more than 328,000 shots are expected to go into the arms of Albertans in the next seven days.
During a news conference Tuesday, Kenney said it took the province 119 days to administer the first million doses. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said it took 29 days to administer the second million doses.
“We promised to deliver vaccines to Albertans as quickly and safely as possible, and we’re keeping that promise,” Shandro said in a news release Thursday.
“With consistent vaccine supply finally arriving in Alberta and two million doses administered so far, we’re another step closer to reducing pressure on our health-care system and getting life back to normal.”
By the first week of June, the premier said it’s expected that half of the Alberta population will have received at least one dose of vaccine, and two-thirds will have that added protection by the third week of June.
“I feel proud of it and really joyful and obviously feel satisfaction in the heart that we are trying to help the community,” Edmonton pharmacist Noman Khan said of being part of the two million milestone.
“It’s not a matter of just making money, obviously we are helping the community. The tough times, it’s been over one year… lots of people are really hopeful.”
David Sleen has been working directing traffic at the mass vaccination site at the Edmonton Expo Centre. He said each passing vehicle gives him more hope.
“I love it. Each and every day I’m here, the more people I see come in, it’s one step closer to getting back to normal.”
Ian Small became eligible to book his appointment on Monday, when every Albertan 12 and older became eligible. He received his first dose at the Expo Centre Wednesday afternoon.
“It feels like kind of a culmination of 14 months of sitting here and waiting inside and being anxious and stressed and scared. Watching the numbers in Edmonton go up and finally now I can actually just get it. It’s kind of surreal,” he explained.
“Two million is a pretty big number… I hope that most people will go get vaccinated and that number can just keep going up.”
While excitement around vaccines is increasing, the premier warned Alberta is still in the midst of the third wave and stressed the importance of everyone following the public health measures that are in place.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Stephanie Smith also urged caution.
“I am a glass-half-full kind of person. I’m an eternal optimist. I do think that we have a lot of hope in that we have really amazing vaccines, we’re seeing very good supply of vaccines and good uptake in our vaccination. That, in conjunction with the restrictions that are in place right now, are going to get us through this third wave,” Smith told Global News Morning Edmonton on Wednesday.
“I think that we have to be a little bit careful about being too optimistic about what the vaccines can do right now, because we still need to get a larger proportion of the population vaccinated before we can really ease those restrictions.”
Alberta’s COVID-19 case rates are still the highest in the country.
Alberta’s vaccine rollout progress
When it comes to where Alberta stands on vaccine rollout compared to other provinces, we’re in the middle of the pack. Alberta is slightly behind the national average.
All Albertans 12 and older are eligible to book a vaccine appointment, which represents about 3.8 million people.
In response to high demand, the Genesis Centre vaccination site in Calgary will be expanding from 10 vaccination stations to 40. This will boost the immunization capabilities at the site from 60 vaccines administered per hour to 240 per hour.
The goal is to have the additional spaces open by Saturday. Appointments must be booked in advance.
Other provinces in Canada have been hosting pop-up vaccination clinics in COVID-19 hot spots. When asked if this was a possibility in Alberta, Hinshaw said it’s something they are looking at but added there are many factors to be considered in that decision.
“We have a finite amount of resources in terms of the vaccine we have available, the professionals who deliver it, the infrastructure that’s needed to make sure that vaccines are within cold chain, that there’s appropriate and prompt monitoring and reporting of vaccines administered,” she explained.
“Right now, while we have extremely large volumes of vaccine coming into the province, we are wanting to make sure that we are maximizing the efficiency of our delivery, and as much as possible, supporting people to go to those locations that are nearest to them, which include pharmacies, some physician offices and the Alberta Health Services clinics.
“We are looking at areas where perhaps uptake and coverage is not as high as we would like and it’s in those particular areas where the possibility of outreach clinics could play a role. But we need to make sure that we’re looking at that from a provincial perspective and making sure that we’re considering all those who might benefit from it, as well as not diverting resources from the clinics that are providing access to the majority of Albertans.”
Second doses could start in early June
Earlier this year, Alberta — as well as several other provinces in Canada — announced it would extend the gap between administering first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to a maximum of four months. In Alberta, this applies to anyone who received their first dose after March 10, 2021.
The move was made following a recommendation from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization amid low vaccine supply, as well as evidence that showed protection against serious infection or death was present after the first dose.
This allowed the province to offer first doses to as many eligible Albertans as possible, as quickly as possible.
“Going from having no protection to having that first dose, which again offers approximately 70 to 80 per cent protection, is a very important boost,” Hinshaw said Thursday.
Hinshaw has previously said it’s very likely that Albertans will receive their second dose earlier than the four-month timeline. She said Thursday that second doses could start being offered as early as the beginning of June, if vaccine supply keeps up.
“We’re going to be watching closely to see when our uptake begins to slow in those populations who are eligible for their first dose. If our supply of vaccine speeds up, again, it’s a balance of making sure that we’re opening up eligibility as soon as we have the supply to do so.
“My estimate would be that by early June, I would believe that we would be able to start offering second doses if our supply arrives as we expect it to and if the demand continues as we expect it to for first doses.”
Information on how to book an appointment can be found on the Alberta Health Services website.
Alberta's COVID-19 data Thursday
With 1,558 new cases reported Thursday, Alberta now has 24,586 active cases of COVID-19 province-wide. That’s down slightly from 24,962 active cases Wednesday.
There are now 722 people in hospital with COVID-19, 177 of whom are being treated in intensive care. Hospitalizations are down from Wednesday when there were 737 people being treated with COVID-19.
About 15,266 tests were processed, putting Alberta’s positivity rate at 10.6 per cent.
Nine additional deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the last 24 hours, bringing the province’s death toll to 2,132. All of the deaths included comorbidities.
Five of the deaths occurred in the Edmonton zone: a man in his 50s, a woman in her 60s, two men in their 70s and a man in his 90s.
Two deaths occurred in the South zone: a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s.
A man in his 40s from the Calgary zone died, as well as a woman in her 90s in the Central zone.
Alberta has recorded 215,193 total cases and 188,475 recoveries since the pandemic started last spring.