Calgary

Nurse 1st to receive COVID-19 vaccination in Calgary as Alberta health-care workers eagerly await their turn

On Tuesday, Tanya Harvey, an intensive care RN at the Foothills Medical Centre became the first Calgary recipient of a COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta, as thousands of health-care workers prepare for their first dose of the vaccine.

Doses began to be administered to health-care workers in Calgary, Edmonton Tuesday afternoon

Sahra Kaahiye, right, a respiratory therapist in Edmonton, was the first Albertan to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020. RN Tanya Harvey, the first to receive the vaccine in Calgary, described the vaccine as a glimmer of hope. (Alberta Health Services)

On Tuesday, Tanya Harvey, an intensive care RN at the Foothills Medical Centre became the first Calgary recipient of a COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta, as thousands of health-care workers prepare for their first dose of the vaccine.

Sahra Kaahiye, a respiratory therapist at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, became the first recipient in Edmonton.

About 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived Monday night and are now being thawed so they can be used as soon as possible.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says another 25,000 doses of the vaccine are to arrive next week.

The province now expects to immunize 29,000 frontline workers by the end of the year with the shots to be rolled out first in Calgary and Edmonton starting Tuesday, where hospitals and care homes are hardest hit by surging cases.

Calgary Intensive care physician Dr. Daniel Niven was one of the first to get the shot on Tuesday.

He says getting it was similar to any other vaccine.

"In fact, my arm feels just fine … you wouldn't even know it happened," he told The Homestretch.

The doctor says he had been watching closely as new information about the vaccine had been released.

"The more I get a sense of this particular vaccine, the more comfortable I am with its safety profile and its effectiveness," he said.

"I think it's great news for all of us. I mean, this is truly how we're going to suppress and ultimately put behind us, the COVID-19 pandemic."

Niven says he thinks the rollout of the vaccine will provide comfort to those in the medical industry.

"We still need to be very careful but there is some reassurance there that we are building our own immunity," he said.

The ICU and continuing care staff vaccinated by the end of the year will need a second dose within about a month.

Nurses prepare before attending to a COVID-19 patient on the ICU at Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary on Nov. 14. The province expects to immunize 29,000 front-line workers by the end of the year. (Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel)

Staffing shortages have plagued Alberta hospitals and care homes for several months.

"Those are people who are not able to be at the frontlines delivering care," said Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta.

"I think the plan is to try and protect the resources we have and move out in terms of identifying other priority areas," she said.

There are currently 825 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta healthcare workers.

But Niven noted that's still a relatively low number given how many thousands of health-care workers there are in Alberta.

"And most of those are actually acquired outside of the work environment through one's daily life, as opposed to what you're doing day to day at work," he said.

The province warns it will be many months before the general population is immunized and there is widespread protection against the coronavirus.


With files from Jennifer Lee, The Canadian Press and The Homestretch.

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