About half of eligible Alberta seniors now booked for COVID-19 vaccine

Article content

Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment system has bounced back after heavy demand stymied bookings at its launch, with about half of seniors newly eligible this week already slotted to get the jab.

The mass sign-ups for shots come as Health Canada regulators approved a third vaccine Friday from AstraZeneca that looks to further accelerate immunizations.

As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, more than 114,500 people had made appointments with Alberta Health Services to get vaccinated, with some already having received their first dose.

The bookings began Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., with eligibility expanding to about 230,000 Albertans born in 1946 and earlier.

The appointments are helping Alberta to pick up the pace for immunizations. The province set a single-day record for shots administered Thursday, with 11,728 jabs in one day, following an additional 9,000 shots given Wednesday.

“Even though we have had difficulty with the logistics with getting this out and having supply limited, we hit another high yesterday,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said at a Friday news conference.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

To date, Alberta has administered 207,300 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. There are now 82,989 Albertans fully immunized after having received two shots.

Also Friday, Alberta reported 356 new cases of the novel coronavirus from about 9,212 tests, representing a 3.9 per cent positivity rate.

Three more deaths from the virus were reported, the lowest single-day count so far in 2021. All three were in the AHS Central zone, including two linked to the outbreak at the Red Deer Olymel meat plant.

There are 16 more variant cases in Alberta, all of the B.1.1.7 strain first found in the United Kingdom. The province’s variant count has reached 371.

There are now 269 Albertans in hospital with the virus, including 55 in intensive-care units, down from 280 hospitalizations and 56 ICU admissions Thursday.

Active cases climbed to 4,505, continuing a week-plus plateau.

AstraZeneca approved as Canada’s third vaccine

Health Canada approved a vaccine from AstraZeneca Friday morning, giving a boost to inoculation efforts amid the country’s second wave.

Canada will receive 22 million doses of the vaccine, which requires two doses, much like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs already in use. Unlike those vaccines, however, the AstraZeneca version utilizes a viral vector load to immunize and can be shipped and stored at normal refrigerated temperatures.

The first 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca will arrive in Canada next week.

Shandro said Alberta is awaiting information from the federal government on distribution to provinces.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“Since we usually get our allotment in Alberta on a per capita basis, that could probably be 55,000, 60,000 (doses) for us, but the exact timing, exact amount, we haven’t been advised yet,” he said.

No changes will be made to eligibility for the ongoing Phase 1 of vaccinations in light of the approval, Shandro said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has a 62 per cent efficacy rate. It’s less effective overall than the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, but Health Canada regulators said it is 100 per cent effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Some countries have advised against AstraZeneca shots for those 65 and older, with questions lingering about its effectiveness in that age group.

Health Canada did not place any restrictions on age for the vaccine, citing evidence from countries where it has been in use. It’s a decision Shandro said came as a surprise.

“I understand questions about the amount of evidence we have for folks who are 65 and older,” he said.

“I look forward to getting that advice in from our public-health officials here in Alberta to understand how and whether there will be any changes to Phase 2 priority groups.”

No concerns with advancing reopening, Shandro says

Current trends mean Alberta will likely move forward with the next phase of its economic relaunch, Shandro said.

That could happen as early as Monday, when the cabinet committee on COVID-19 will meet to discuss the possible next step, three weeks after the first set of restrictions were eased.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

If the group decides to lift some restrictions, those changes could come into effect the same day, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said earlier this week.

The eased restrictions would apply to retailers, hotels, conference centres, banquet halls and community halls. Indoor fitness and children’s sport and performance could also see a further lifting of measures. Details on specifics are not available.

Alberta has more than met one of the previously outlined thresholds for entering the next phase of reopening, which required fewer than 450 concurrent COVID-19 hospitalizations by March 1.

Shandro said Albertans should remember that, even though some restrictions could be eased, some will still apply.

He said current data supports moving forward but said the last week of data still must be reviewed.

“Some of the caveats that were put on it was if we see … concern over the past week with increases,” Shandro said. “I don’t see that at this time, though.”

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View Source