More Albertans join queue for COVID-19 vaccines as case and variant numbers surge

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and the province’s chief medical officer of health are expected to provide an update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday afternoon.

The news conference with the premier and Dr. Deena Hinshaw is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. MT. You can watch it live here.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in the legislature Tuesday that Albertans should expect “an announcement” at the news conference.

More Albertans joined the queue for vaccinations Tuesday as provincial health officials grapple with surging cases of COVID-19 and highly contagious variants.

Albertans with eligible underlying health conditions who were born in or before 1973 became eligible to book appointments, either online through AHS or by calling Health Link, starting at 8 a.m.

Eligible people in the 2B group can also book appointments at participating pharmacies. A full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the Alberta Blue Cross website

As of Tuesday morning, Albertans born between 1957 and 1966 are eligible to book appointments for the AstraZeneca shot. 

Eligible Albertans in this phase can choose to wait to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when Phase 2D fully launches in May.

The online booking tool has been changed to allow up to four eligible family members to book at the same time at the same clinic, Alberta Health Services said in a statement Monday.

Bookings are being opened by birth year. The first eligible people in group 2B began booking appointments last week.

Additional years will be added as more doses arrive. If supplies hold up, the province aims to vaccinate every adult Albertan by the end of June. 

Albertans who became eligible on Tuesday include:

  • Those born in 1956 or before;
  • First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit people born in 1971 or before, and;
  • Those born between 1957 and 1973 with high-risk underlying health conditions.
  • Phase 2D (AstraZeneca): Born 1957-1966

As of Monday, 707,482 vaccine doses had been administered, and 116,198 Albertans had been fully vaccinated with two doses. 

On Monday, Alberta reported 887 new cases of COVID-19 and 432 new variant cases, which now account for nearly 40 per cent of active infections in the province.

There were 312 people in hospital, including 76 in intensive care.

Premier Jason Kenney said last week the province was not considering further public health restrictions to curb the spread.

But cabinet’s emergency management committee was scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning.

Variant outbreaks

On Monday, Hinshaw provided new details on efforts to contain two outbreaks of the  P1 variant, with cases confirmed in at least four worksites.

The first outbreak involves the north and central health zones and “a large employer with multiple sites across Western Canada,” Hinshaw wrote on Twitter Monday. 

She gave no further details about the employer involved, citing an ongoing public health investigation and patient confidentiality. 

“These investigations are complex and it’s important that we ensure information is accurate and that anyone at risk is directly contacted before sharing details,” Hinshaw wrote. “We also must balance the public desire for info with protecting patient confidentiality.”

Health officials think the outbreak started with a traveller returning to Alberta from out of province.

A total of 26 cases involved workers from the three sites and their household contacts. Three of those infections are confirmed to be the Brazilian variant known as P1, though Hinshaw said that number was likely to increase as more lab results come in.

There is also an outbreak at a separate workplace in the Calgary zone. As of Monday, five people had been infected and one case had been confirmed as the P1 variant, Hinshaw said.

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