Alberta’s vaccination program is going into high gear, with new detailed plans that will see almost one million people becoming eligible to be immunized in the next three weeks.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the province has created an extensive list of underlying health problems, ranging from heart disease, cancer and severe obesity to Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and substance use disorders.
People who have these ailments, or a history with them, will be eligible under Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout, Hinshaw said Monday at her daily update.
“All of these conditions are associated with a higher risk of death or hospitalization, even in younger age groups, when comparing their risks to those four people aged 50 to 64 with no underlying conditions,” she said.
“These conditions are complex and every patient is unique. I encourage everyone with underlying conditions to check the website to see if they will qualify.”
Phase 2C will include health care professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and health support staff. As well, designated support persons for those living in continuing care will also become eligible, Hinshaw said.
“Together these phases represent a vast group of Albertans,” Hinshaw said.
“More than 660,000 Albertans will be eligible under Phase 2B and another 400,000 will be able to book in Phase 2C. That is roughly a million Albertans, and it will take some time to provide a vaccination to everyone who wants one.”
The rollout of these two phases is expected to begin in April, she said.
Alberta reported 364 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, and a total of 4,811 active cases. There were 6,618 tests conducted on March 14, meaning the positivity rate was at 5.5 per cent.
Hinshaw said 65 new cases of variants of concern have been found, bringing the total number to 985.
There are 255 people in hospital, including 42 in intensive care.
Hinshaw said there were also three new deaths, bringing the total number Albertans who have died to COVID-19 to 1,949. The three were a man in his 80s in Edmonton Zone, a woman in her 90s in Calgary Zone and a man in his 60s in the South Zone.
Hinshaw made a point of noting that the provincewide R-value — essentially the number of people infected by each infected person — was at 1.07 over the last week, and said Albertans need to stay focused on being mindful of precautionary health measures.
“We must all redouble our efforts to follow public health measures so we can drive Alberta’s Rt value back below 1,” she said.
Health-care workers had administered 368,124 doses of vaccine as of Monday’s update.
WATCH | Alberta’s chief medical officer of health tells people to be patient with vaccine bookings
On Monday morning, Phase 2A of the province’s vaccine rollout began. Albertans born in 1956 or earlier are eligible to book an appointment for the vaccine, along with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born before or during 1971.
By 1 p.m., about 8,000 eligible Albertans had booked immunization appointments through AHS, while thousands more had made appointments through participating pharmacies, Hinshaw said.
The rollout will continue by birth year over the coming days, one year at a time.
More than 92 per cent of the province’s current supply of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses had been booked as of Sunday afternoon, Hinshaw said.
Given the dwindling supply, the province shut down online bookings, with limited appointments available only through Health Link 811. First Nations, Inuit and Métis people born between 1972 and 1976 are eligible, as are other Albertans born between 1957 and 1961.
Alberta Health Services announced Monday that a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination site will open April 5 at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre.
The site will operate seven days a week, between eight and 16 hours a day. Booking is expected to open later in March.
Here is the breakdown of current cases in Alberta:
- Calgary zone: 1,779
- Edmonton zone: 1,160
- North zone: 818
- South zone: 588
- Central zone: 460
- Unknown: 6