Alberta reports 1,516 new COVID-19 cases as province expands AstraZeneca eligibility

Alberta will start offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to people age 40 and over, Premier Jason Kenney announced Sunday, as the province reported 1,516 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths.

The decision, following sluggish uptake of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the province’s rapid vaccination clinics, is “based on growing scientific knowledge about the vaccine” and on advice from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Kenney said on Twitter. 

Sunday’s new case count was slightly higher than Saturday’s count of 1,486 new cases. The total number of active cases increased to 17,935 across the province, from 17,307 active cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. 

There were 800 new variant cases identified, bringing the percentage of active variant cases to 54.5 per cent of active cases. 

Provincial labs completed 15,343 tests for COVID-19 on Saturday, with a positivity rate of 9.8 per cent. 

Hospitalizations increased to 451, up from 445 on Saturday, including 103 people who are being treated for COVID-19 in intensive care units.

Of the three reported deaths Sunday, two occurred in the South zone and one in the Edmonton zone. 

Since the outset of the pandemic, 2,040 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta. 

Here is the breakdown of active cases by health zone: 

  • Calgary zone: 7,879
  • Edmonton zone: 4,788 
  • Central zone: 1,849 
  • South zone: 905
  • North zone:2,441
  • Unknown: 73

Low vaccine uptake

As of Sunday, 1,147,048 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered across the province, an increase of 25,147 from the previous day.

Of the 270,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine received by the province, 97,690 doses had been administered as of Friday, and 170,646 doses still remained, according to Alberta Health.  

After reports of sluggish uptake at mass vaccination sites in Edmonton and Calgary — tied to hesitancy around receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine — an Alberta Health spokesperson said Sunday that traffic is increasing at the rapid flow clinics. 

“We are continuing to raise awareness that AstraZeneca and other vaccines are safe and effective, and are our way out of the pandemic,” said spokesperson Sherene Khaw. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is working with her counterparts and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), to consider options to expand eligibility for the shots, Khaw added. Eligibility is still limited to those over 55.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday that provinces are free to use AstraZeneca for any age above 18, as it’s approved by Health Canada, and that nothing is stopping provinces from expanding eligibililty. 

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