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39K Alberta health workers eligible for COVID-19 booster as many hit 10-month mark since last dose

Click to play video: 'Thousands of Alberta nurses will soon be eligible for COVID-19 booster shots' Thousands of Alberta nurses will soon be eligible for COVID-19 booster shots
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Roughly 39,000 front-line health-care workers in Alberta will be able to book a COVID-19 booster shot as of Monday, Nov. 8.

At a news conference to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation in the province, Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday that more Albertans will be eligible to get a third dose of a vaccine.

Read more: Seniors, front-line health care, First Nations adults should get COVID-19 booster: NACI

Those aged 70 and older with at least six months past their second dose are eligible.

Also eligible for the booster shot will be all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people aged 18 and older for whom it has been at least six months since their second dose.

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The premier also said “health-care workers providing direct patient care who received their second dose less than eight weeks after their first dose (will be eligible for the booster shot) because the data shows that the closer the interval, then perhaps, the less durable the protection of those vaccines.”

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Read more: COVID-19: Kenney announces booster shots for Alberta seniors, health workers, First Nations people

An ER nurse at the University of Alberta Hospital welcomes the news. She says fully vaccinated nurses are starting to get sick with the Delta variant and many are wondering if their immunity has faded.

“We’re starting to see nurses getting sick with Delta variant,” said Tammy Redlin, who’s worked as an ER nurse at the University of Alberta Hospital for 15 years.

“We’ve had a few in our department who’ve gotten sick with Delta and they’ve gotten sick recently, so it makes you start to wonder if our immunity is waning a bit.”

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Redlin received her first dose of vaccine in early January and her second dose in early February.

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“We’re nine, 10 months out, and the ICU nurses are further out because they were done before we were done.”

She added that now, on top of being exhausted and overworked, nurses are also worried about getting sick.

“If you’re at triage, you’re face to face with every patient, every family who comes into the department.”

“We’re still in it,” Redlin said. “It’s still happening.”

In July 2021, there were 66 reported COVID-19 cases in health-care workers. In August, there were 585. In September, that number rose to more than 1,300. In October, it fell to 684 positive cases.

Alberta Health Services told Global News that doesn’t mean workers contracted the virus at work; they could have caught COVID-19 elsewhere.

Those numbers also appear to reflect the fourth wave case rate in the overall Alberta community.

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United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith says it’s been many months since a lot of health-care workers received their second dose of vaccine.

She was pleased to hear about the boosters being offered.

Read more: What does waning COVID-19 vaccine immunity mean? Experts say term is misleading

“Most health-care workers received their first and second doses much earlier this year. So certainly there’s been — for most — there’s been that six months of separation,” Smith said.

“The research is suggesting that this is the appropriate step to be taken in terms of individuals who’ve already had their initial vaccinations in order to keep their levels high in terms of resistance and protection.”

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Smith said there’s no indication that COVID-19 is leaving Alberta any time soon.

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“Health-care workers don’t have any greater immunity or greater protection than other Albertans who are double-vaxxed.”

Read more: Alberta health-care workers, paramedics concerned with COVID-19 vaccine prioritization

She urges health-care workers — and all Albertans — to get their third dose as soon as they’re eligible.

“We all have to do everything we can to maintain the highest level of protection.”

Smith expects the province will follow a similar booster rollout process as it did with the initial vaccination rollout, starting with those who interact with and treat COVID-19 patients and vulnerable populations like those in long-term care.

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Daily COVID-19 numbers

The number of Albertans receiving care for COVID-19 in hospital, including ICU numbers, dropped slightly Thursday over Wednesday.

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On Thursday, there were 677 Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 146 were in the ICU. That’s compared to 697 in hospital and 155 of those in the ICU on Wednesday.

Over the past 24 hours, Alberta performed 12,388 COVID-19 tests and identified 516 new cases. The province’s positivity rate sat at 4.40 per cent.

There were 6,515 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta as of Thursday.

An additional four COVID-19 deaths were reported to the province over the past day.

As of Thursday, 87.2 per cent of eligible Albertans 12 and older had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine while 80.6 per cent of the same group is fully vaccinated.

To date, 325,517 Albertans have contracted COVID-19 and 315,865 have recovered.

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