In an interview with Global News, Alberta’s acting deputy chief medical officer of health said eligibility for third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine could be expanded and indicated the province was doing all it could to convince people to get vaccinated.
On Monday, Aug. 30, the province announced it would offer third doses of the vaccine to certain groups.
Albertans living in congregate care or those who are severely immunocompromised will be able to get a third dose.
“The data has been accumulating that, in their case in particular, they really need three doses to mount the same response that you and I would with two doses,” explained Dr. André Corriveau.
“In a sense, it’s not truly a booster dose. It’s more like for them, the three doses (are) required to… basically get a basic protection level.”
The list of health issues that qualified was significantly smaller for third doses than it had been for the first two. Dr. Corriveau said that was because Alberta Health was using global data to determine which health conditions were more likely to warrant another shot.
Travellers were also offered an additional dose if they had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Corriveau addressed concerns that Albertans wanting to visit Las Vegas were eligible to get another shot whereas pregnant women, who are at risk of severe COVID-19 complications, were not.
“The offer to provide an extra dose to people who are for travel purposes is not really a public health decision. It is more to… accommodate people who need to travel.”
People do not have to prove that they are travelling in order to receive an additional dose.
Most of Alberta’s front-line health-care workers received their second dose of the vaccine back in January and some have been asking when they will qualify for a booster.
In response, Corriveau said there is not enough data to support expanding eligibility to health-care workers at this point but that it would be a priority in the future if research supported it.
Global News has heard from some Albertans who qualify for another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine but who have had trouble booking through 811 or the Alberta Health website.
The booking system was changed to a centralized system handled by Alberta Health at the end of August.
Some people said it took days for their registration to go through the new website. Others said 811 told them they didn’t qualify for the shot even though they believed they did. Global News was also told at least one Albertan booked through 811 only to be phoned by the pharmacy and told that location did not have any vaccine stock.
“I can’t really comment on specific situations,” Corriveau told Global News.
“We haven’t heard that, at my level anyway, that there were any major problems with the booking system for the third dose.”
Between Monday, Aug. 30 and Tuesday, Sept. 7, 16,828 third dose appointments were booked in the province.
For weeks, Alberta doctors have become increasingly outspoken in their concerns about the fourth wave in Alberta.
There have been reports of full ICUs, cancelled surgeries and closed emergency rooms as cases of the virus surge across the province.
A team of doctors began hosting its own online briefings on the pandemic to update the public on the situation.
By contrast, Alberta Health has stopped hosting its regular COVID-19 public briefings with chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Hinshaw was joined by Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Friday, Sept. 3. It was their first time speaking with the media in weeks and the group has not spoken since.
Still, Corriveau denied the province was not echoing concerns being raised by doctors.
“Our message is: immunization is the best approach.
“And then there’s other public health measures that are being recommended, even if there’s no… mandatory obligation.
“It’s still the best practice to stay home if you’re not feeling well and… to wear a mask if you’re going to a public venue.”
When it was pointed out that a portion of Albertans was not listening to those recommendations, Corriveau said there was always people not listening but that the advice was still there.