Alberta regional vaccine rates show data differences in rural areas

CALGARY — The Alberta Government says more than 50 per cent of people aged 12 and older have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but new regional data shows major differences in uptake across the province.

The provincial map shows most of the regions with a higher percentage of people receiving doses are in and around major cities with mass vaccination sites. Access and proximity to supply are major barriers for rural communities, health officials say, and vaccine hesitancy is also playing a factor.

The region of High Level in northern Alberta has the lowest vaccine rate in the province, with just 9.9 per cent of eligible people receiving a shot so far. As of Tuesday, St. Albert had the highest vaccine rate at 56.8 per cent.

Alberta Health says there are 1,300 pharmacies taking part in the vaccine program across the province. There are no pharmacies in High Level offering a COVID-19 shot (the closest pharmacy is in Manning, a two hour drive from High Level), though there are four AHS clinics vaccinating people in the region — in High Level, Fort Vermilion, La Crete and Rainbow Lake.

On the other hand, Canmore is a town with high vaccine demand and a high vaccination rate, sitting near the top in the province with 47 per cent of people with at least one dose.

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There are seven pharmacies in the small town offering a shot and some people are driving to Calgary to one of the large vaccine sites. Availability is a big reason why the region’s rate is higher, the push to welcome back tourists could be another.

“Essentially we’re a tourist destination,” said Wayne Hall, a pharmacist in Canmore.

“A lot of the people here, their livelihood depends of having tourists in. So they want to get their shots and they want to be protected.”

Hall said the waiting list at the pharmacy he works at is more than 1,000 people long.

“It’s been extremely busy,” said Hall.

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