COVID-19 vaccination rate will shape Alberta’s summer, province says

CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney says the province is considering a staged approach to lifting restrictions based on how many people are vaccinated, similar to the ‘reopening roadmap’ Saskatchewan introduced last week.

“We’re still in the early days, but our Emergency Management Committee of cabinet tasked the Department of Health with beginning to develop a reopening plan,” Kenney said Tuesday.

“Part of which would be to track progress in the rate of vaccination of the population.”

Kenney said the immediate focus is getting as many Albertans vaccinated as possible in the next several weeks, but his government is closely watching our provincial neighbour to the east.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his province’s plan is a “cautious” one, dependent on vaccine availability and uptake.

That province has put forth three stages to ease rules – the first of which would see bars and restaurants open for in-person dining, with tables limited to six people, and fitness classes allowed with distancing.

Saskatchewan’s stage one will happen three weeks after 70 per cent of people 40 and older are vaccinated.

In Alberta, Kenney said the plan here is in its early stages. The province hopes to have 2.8 million Albertans vaccinated by the end of May or early June.

ALBERTA SPENDING BIG TO COMBAT VACCINE HESITANCY

The premier says he hopes to still have “a good summer,” but there is one main obstacle to overcome – vaccine hesitancy.

A survey released by the Angus Reid Institute last month found 15 per cent of Albertans would not get the COVID-19 vaccine, the highest rate in the country.

“If you have people who are already not wanting vaccines to begin with, of course that’s going to effect community protection, of course that’s going to effect how quickly we can get to taking some of the restrictions off,” said Dr. Cora Constantinescu, infectious diseases specialist with the vaccine hesitancy clinic at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

The premier said vaccine hesitancy isn’t a major issue in the province right now as the demand to get a shot surges. But Alberta recently launched a $5 million ad campaign to urge people to get the vaccine as quickly as possible.

“Each and every one of us can do something about this too,” Constantinescu said. “You can talk about this in your own circles and you can influence people in your social network who are the people who are most likely to trust you.”

She said people should not make those discussions emotional. Instead, find common ground with people who are hesitant.

“Always make sure that you keep it in the context of their personal decision. Don’t get into debates of philosophy and conspiracy theories, just help them make the decision as it relates to their life and their situation,” Constantinescu said.

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