COVID-19: Alberta government waiting to hear when, how much of newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine it will receive

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro.Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Photo by Courtesy Government of Alberta

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The Alberta government is waiting for the federal government to iron out the details of how the newly-approved AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed throughout Canada.

Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday, with the federal government saying it expects to receive 500,000 doses in the coming weeks. Another 1.5-million doses will arrive by mid-May, said a news release Friday.

This is the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada.

“The Government of Canada continues to do everything possible to protect Canadians from COVID-19. This includes securing a highly diverse and extensive portfolio of vaccines and taking all necessary measures to ready the country to receive them,” said Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand in the release.

Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he was waiting for the federal government to work out details before he knew when and how many doses the province would receive.


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“We understand that Canada will be getting about a half-million doses. The exact timing … that’s for the federal government to speak to,” said Shandro. “Since we usually get our allotment in Alberta on a per capita basis, 55,000 to 60,000 (doses) for us. But the exact timing, the exact amount, we still haven’t been advised yet.”

The Alberta government has already announced who will be included in phases one and two of its vaccine, including health-care workers, seniors 75 years of age and older, as well as people living in various congregate settings. Large portions of phase one are already complete.

Shandro said Friday that he would have to meet with public health officials in the province to decide if the approval of the latest vaccine will have any effect on who may be included in phase two.

“I think I was a little bit surprised that Health Canada did approve it for folks who are 65 and older. There are, I understand, questions about the amount of evidence that we have for folks who are 65 and older so I look forward to getting that advice,” said Shandro.

Several European countries have approved AstraZeneca only for people under the age of 65.

356 new cases reported Friday

Meanwhile, Alberta reported 356 new case of COVID-19 on Friday after 9,212 tests were conducted. The province has a positivity rate of 3.4 per cent, said chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Twitter. The positivity rate was 4.4 per cent on Thursday and 4.6 per cent on Wednesday.


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There are 4,505 active cases in Alberta, up from 4,484 on Thursday. Friday’s cases included 908 in the Edmonton Zone. There are 269 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 55 in intensive care.

There were three new deaths reported in the province.

Hinshaw will next provide an in-person update on Monday, the day that marks three weeks since the province entered Step 1 of its reopening plan. It is the first day that the province could move into Step 2 depending on leading indicators.

The latest hospitalization rates are currently lower than the benchmarks to enter both Step 2 and Step 3, however officials have said they will take the full three weeks between each phase and that they need to look at trends in leading indicators such as Alberta’s R value, the positivity rate and new case numbers.

On Friday, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA) issued a public statement strongly recommending the province to not move forward with the reopening plan.

They cited new case numbers no longer decreasing and the emergence of the variant first found in the United Kingdom entering Alberta as reasons not to open. They also claimed bars and restaurants have not been following restrictions currently in place and noted it will be months before the majority of Albertans are vaccinated.

“The health-care system and the population, after having been stressed for so long, really can’t tolerate another surge before the end of our vaccination campaign,” read the letter. “Any further easing of COVID-19 restrictions should only be undertaken when all high-risk individuals in the province have been immunized — we have a short window remaining to prevent another surge and protect Albertans, but it is rapidly closing.”

During his press conference Friday, Shandro said he will be sitting down with public health officials on March 1 to review the latest trends in the data.


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