Dropping demand for first doses could stall Alberta’s reopening plans, Kenney says

Alberta is seeing a diminishing demand for first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that could translate into a longer wait for the province to fully reopen, says Premier Jason Kenney.

Monday’s update on COVID-19 in Alberta provided both encouraging and discouraging benchmarks in the province’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

The province reported 127 new cases, the smallest daily total since early October when the second wave was beginning to rise. 

But there was also a low number of people who got their first dose of a vaccine: 9,179 received their first shot on Sunday, the lowest in a single day since early April, while another 15,914 people received their second dose. 

“We’re getting to that critical point right now where every additional person who decides to get their first dose is going to be able to accelerate the full openness of Alberta,” Kenney said Monday.

“If you’ve been holding back for one reason or another, now is the time to get the jab.” 

Alberta’s reopening plan is tied directly to vaccination and hospital rates. Stage 2, starting Thursday, required 60 per cent of eligible Albertans aged 12 and older to be vaccinated and for hospitalization numbers to be below 500 and declining. 

Stage 3, when most of Alberta’s public health restrictions are set to be lifted, will begin two weeks after the province hits the 70 per cent threshold. 

Reaching that threshold requires 115,000 more people to get their first dose, Kenney said. Currently, there are about 100,000 bookings in place over the next seven days, he added.

Week-over-week decline

Alberta administered 140,313 first doses of the vaccine last week, a drop of 67,242 compared to the previous week.

As of Monday, 66.7 per cent of people over 12 had their first dose, while 14.3 per cent were fully vaccinated with two doses. 

According to statistics released Monday, there are 4,707 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, a decrease of 174 from the day before.

Two new COVID-19 deaths were reported to Alberta Health: a man in his 40s from the Central health zone and a woman in her 50s from the Calgary zone. 

There were 351 people in hospital, including 94 patients in intensive care. 

The province’s positivity rate was 3.97 per cent on 4,027 tests. The province’s R-value, also known as the reproduction number, was at 0.74. The rate of transmission is decreasing when the number is below one. 

Here is how active cases broke down on Monday by health zone: 

  • Calgary zone: 1,911
  • Edmonton zone: 1,273
  • North zone: 679
  • Central zone: 599
  • South zone: 243
  • Unknown: 2

Alberta will move into the second stage of its reopening plan on Thursday. Outdoor social gatherings of up to 20 people and festivals of up to 150 people will be permitted while theatres, cinemas and museums can reopen. 

Kenney said Monday the province could expect to see a “fall spike” in COVID-19 similar to other contagious diseases, based on “weather, seasonality and other factors.” 

“There will be new variants and they will come and go but the key thing is just growing that protection of our population through the vaccines,” he said during a news conference Monday about the province’s equalization referendum plans. 

Kenney says he expects 80 per cent of eligible Albertans will be fully vaccinated with both doses by late September.

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