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Rural southern Alberta areas see fewer people receiving COVID-19 vaccine than urban counterparts

Click to play video: 'Smaller southern Alberta communities seeing lower COVID-19 vaccination rates' Smaller southern Alberta communities seeing lower COVID-19 vaccination rates
On Monday, the province unveiled a new mapping tool for Albertans to see the uptick in COVID-19 vaccinations in their communities. Eloise Therien has the details on how rural and urban areas compare – May 18, 2021

A new immunization viewing tool is shedding light on what areas of Alberta are lagging behind others when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Monday, the government of Alberta unveiled the new map, which is accessible to the public online. 

It shows the percentage of individuals who have received at least one dose, percentage of individuals fully immunized and total number of doses that have been administered based on geographic location.

According to data updated May 16, the highest percentage of Albertans who have received at least one dose is in the Twin Brooks area of Edmonton at 56.2 per cent.

Comparatively, the lowest percentage is in High Level, with just 9.8 per cent of the population receiving the shot.

Read more: Albertans line up at U.S. border for COVID-19 vaccinations: ‘It feels great’

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In southern Alberta, the Municipal District of Taber is still a COVID-19 hot spot region and is sitting at 26.1 per cent vaccinated with at least one dose.

Cam Hazel, a pharmacist of Johnson’s Drugs in the town of Taber, said the pharmacy initially received an inconsistent supply of Moderna but things are now evening out.

“At this point, I’m starting to wonder if it’s a little bit of hesitancy,” he said.

“Our supply has been picking up in the last few weeks, and we’ve been getting a little bit more consistent supply for ourselves being a Moderna pharmacy.”

Hazel said he believes a language barrier could also be a factor in the lower rate of vaccinations in the area.

“In our area, in particular, there may be a little bit of a gap in being able to reach some people with messaging in English,” he explained.

The County of Warner, located south of Lethbridge, continues to be one of the region’s hardest hit. Data shows 33.2 per cent of its population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The nearby County of Forty Mile is sitting at just 20.2 per cent, but with only 78 active cases per 100,000 people as of May 17, it is faring much better than the County of Warner. As of Monday, it had more than 600 cases per 100,000 people.

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Click to play video: 'Over half of eligible Albertans have received first dose of COVID-19 vaccine' Over half of eligible Albertans have received first dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Over half of eligible Albertans have received first dose of COVID-19 vaccine – May 18, 2021

Darren Ellingson, a pharmacist at the Raymond Pharmacy, said many residents are eager to get immunized, but they could use more doses to meet the demand.

He said some are putting themselves on multiple waiting lists or seeking the vaccine outside of their communities.

“If the government could give us more, we could do more,” Ellingson said. “The need and the demand are there.

A spokesperson with Alberta Health told Global News it is prioritizing making vaccinations “readily available” for Albertans.

“We are not commenting on specific communities, but there are many different factors that can contribute to the current vaccination percentage in any given community,” the statement read.

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“This includes the proportion of the population that was eligible in Phase 1 and 2 of the province’s vaccine rollout.”

Read more: Interactive map breaks down COVID-19 vaccination rate by Alberta community

According to the province, 42.2 per cent of Albertans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, which is more than half of the eligible population.

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