Alberta on track to give 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines per week, premier says
Restrictions to be eased as summer approaches, Kenney predicts
The province is on track to give 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine per week, Premier Jason Kenney says.
The premier provided an update on Alberta's vaccine rollout Monday morning, hours before a massive, rapid flow vaccine clinic was set to open its doors at the Edmonton Expo Centre.
A similar clinic opened April 5 at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary.
The large Calgary and Edmonton clinics, each which can give up to 1,000 doses per hour and 6,000 per day, will begin offering people between the ages of 55 and 64 the AstraZeneca vaccine, Kenney said.
The "stretch goal" is to give 500,000 doses across the province per week if demand is there, he said.
About 900 appointments were booked for the first hour of the rapid flow clinic at Edmonton Expo Centre, Alberta Health Services officials said.
Selene Tash, Edmonton zone executive director, said staff were working out the new process and things took longer than they will once the kinks are worked out.
Outside, people crowded as they waited to go in, and did not maintain social distancing.
AHS will work with Expo staff to prevent that from happening in the future and said it's important for people to wait in their vehicles until five minutes before their appointment time, Tash said.
"If one person lines up, then everybody lines up because everybody thinks they need to queue," she said.
By the end of May there should be about 48 to 50 per cent protection among Albertans, at which point Albertans can expect to see some of the public health restrictions eased, he said.
Once 64 per cent of Albertans have immunity, hopefully by the end of June, restrictions may be further eased but masking and distancing will still be encouraged, Kenney said.
By September, when hopefully 72 per cent of people have immunity, Alberta could be in full recovery, he said.
The premier reiterated that as long as vaccine supplies arrive as promised, every adult in Alberta will be offered at least a first dose by the end of June.
'No credible alternative'
Asked about criticism from members of the public and his government over the reintroduction of public health measures as variant cases surged, Kenney said he doesn't like the restrictions either, but there are no other safe options.
"We truly concluded that there has been no credible alternative to avoid large-scale, preventable deaths and the overwhelming of the healthcare system," he said.
The premier said that in the race between variants and vaccine, the province is losing. He said vaccines are the best hope to turning things around.
"We're nearing the end of a long and tiring journey. It is our path to recovery and freedom."
More than 865,500 vaccine doses have been administered across the province, and Alberta has one of the best vaccine programs in Canada, he said.
Asked about current statistics showing Alberta behind other provinces' immunization rate, Kenney said there have been problems with the data reported to Alberta Health, and the numbers will be updated later Monday.
The province is launching its immunization campaign in stages and distribution continues to ramp up.
Phase 2C launched Monday. As of 8 a.m., health-care workers in patient-care facilities or who provide services directly to clients in the community became eligible to book an appointment.
Eligible health-care workers include:
Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and all other health care professionals and their office or support staff who provide in-person, direct patient care.
Individuals working in patient-care facilities or providing services directly to clients in the community for Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, Alberta Precision Labs, DynaLife and students undertaking placement practicums in clinical areas.
Health-care workers on First Nations reserves and Métis settlements.
The latest stage of immunization comes as Alberta contends with a worsening third wave of infection, driven by a surge in variant cases.
On Sunday, the province reported 1,183 new cases and 942 new variant cases, which now account for about 50.5 per cent of active cases in Alberta.
There were 376 people in hospital, including 90 in intensive care. The province also recorded another death, meaning 2,013 Albertans have died of the disease.
There were 14,293 active cases across the province, an increase of about 600 active cases from the day before.