Alberta commits to bring extra vaccines to Banff and Wood Buffalo after J&J setback

Alberta still plans to provide extra vaccines to Banff and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) despite a Health Canada decision to hold off distributing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to concerns about the manufacturing process. 

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced the two regions, which have high numbers of COVID-19, would receive all of Alberta’s first shipment of the one-dose vaccine. 

But late Friday, Health Canada announced the provinces would not be receiving their shipments in light of quality control problems at a plant in Baltimore, Md. 

In a series of posts on Twitter, Health Minister Tyler Shandro called the delay disappointing and said 34,700 doses were anticipated as early as Monday. 

“Despite this setback, we fully intend to keep our commitment to the people of Banff and RMWB,” He wrote. 

“Alberta Health officials are urgently looking into how we can deliver doses from other sources.”

He said other shipments coming to Alberta have already been set aside for other phases of the rollout. 

High case rates

On Sunday, RMWB declared a state of local emergency due to the surging number of cases in the area. Municipal, Métis and First Nations leaders called on Premier Jason Kenney to lower the vaccination eligibility age, and enact regional restrictions.

The RMWB has 1,316 active cases, or a rate of 1,576 per 100,000 residents, the worst in the province. Banff has a 143 cases which translates into a rate of 1,063.1 cases per 100,000. For comparison, Edmonton’s active case rate is 406.2 per 100,000. 

On Wednesday, the province dropped the vaccine eligibility age from 40 to 30 for Banff and Wood Buffalo due to the younger population demographic. Kenney also announced all of Alberta’s allotment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would go to those two regions for the first two weeks. 

Shandro said on Friday that he hoped the Health Canada pause would be brief. He said Alberta Health will update the situation once the federal government provides more information. 

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