Calgary

Jason Kenney defends vaccine rollout plan as critics call for more details

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is defending his government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the face of criticism that virtually no details have been shared regarding its distribution plan.

'This is a bit of a moving target,' said the Alberta premier

'The problem now is supply,' Kenney says

CBC News Edmonton

10 days ago
1:44
Premier Jason Kenney explains that the next phases of vaccine rollout can't happen until the province has enough vaccine and the efficacy of yet-to-be approved vaccines may change the province's approach. 1:44

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is defending his government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the face of criticism that virtually no details have been shared regarding its distribution plan.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi weighed in on Tuesday, saying he believes — despite all of the province's talk about supply issues and Ottawa's failure to solve them — that the bigger problem is going to be distribution.

"In other words, before we know it we're going to have more supply than we have ability to put in peoples' arms. So our goal needs to be to solve that problem now before it happens and make sure we are ready to do massive vaccinations as soon as supply is available," he said.

Rick Lundy, who's with the group Open Arms Patient Advocacy, says the lack of information is frustrating.

"You almost question whether they do have a plan or they're making it up on the fly," he said.

"Communication during COVID is vital. It's vital because this has affected every demographic. This has affected everybody's life. And we need some hope. We need hope that this is, you know, that we're going to get back to some normalcy soon," Lundy said.

Details coming soon

Kenney said Wednesday that he doesn't see the need for a big rush. He said the province will lay out its priority lists for the next phases of the vaccine distribution program "pretty soon" after studying what other provinces are doing. 

"The problem now is supply, we effectively ran out of supply for all intents and purposes in mid January. So, that is our primary focus. I will say, when it comes to the subsequent phases, a lot of this is quite fluid," he said. 

Kenney said one example is that there's some evidence that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may not have a high level of efficacy with people over the age of 65. He said if that's the case, it could change the whole approach to the rollout.

Health officials say they hope to start vaccinating seniors in the coming weeks, while at-risk populations are expected to get their shots after April. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"So, I guess what I'm trying to say is this is a bit of a moving target. There are going to be changes throughout, but we will be releasing the basic outlines of the next phase fairly soon," he said.

University of Calgary infectious disease physician Dr. Daniel Gregson says large venues like stadiums could be set up relatively quickly if Alberta received a big influx of vaccine.

"I think we could get it up and running as quickly as possible and you'd see a large group of people vaccinated over two to four weeks, kind of thing," he said.

The City of Calgary has offered the use of recreation centres and other large buildings for vaccination clinics.

Gregson says the key for the province now is to prioritize who gets the vaccine first within the next phases of the rollout and figure out how it will alert people such as seniors who may not have internet access.

Alberta Health told CBC News it will confirm the next steps of the vaccine rollout in the next few days, following confirmation that vaccine deliveries for the province have been arranged through March.

Information on how seniors over 75 will be informed about their eligibility and how they'll book appointments will also be released as soon as possible, the department added.

"Our capacity will not be a constraint on rollout. We've been ready since December to roll out a much larger supply of vaccines than we've received in the last few weeks," the ministry said.

Alberta Health is also promising more information soon on how doctors and pharmacists will be involved in the plan.

"Alberta is exploring a wide range of options, including large immunization sites, for when more vaccines are available in future phases," said Alberta Health.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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