Alberta Premier Jason Kenney criticized the federal government Wednesday over its unreliable COVID-19 vaccine rollout as active cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in the province.
During a news conference with three other premiers, Kenney told reporters that he wasn’t blaming the federal government but commenting on their responsibility to distribute vaccines. He said it’s frustrating to have to cancel appointments because the supply has run out.
“We’ve typically been trying to deliver vaccines in Alberta through pharmacies,” Kenney said. “They’ve got limited capacity, they don’t have a lot of staff and when they book up to three or four days of appointments to administer the Moderna vaccine and then have to delay or cancel it’s extremely frustrating for them and for their customers. We need a reliable stream.”
He said the government is concerned with the low demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine for those between the ages of 55 to 64 years old. He said in order to maximize the public’s desire to get inoculated, there needs to be a steady supply.
“It’s frustrating to see other jurisdictions around the world that are at or above 50 per cent of the population having been inoculated,” Kenney said. “It’s frustrating to have Canada ranked 40th or worse in terms of per capita access to doses.”
Kenney acknowledged that in the last three weeks there has been a significant arrival of vaccines. As of Monday, the province has administered nearly one million doses.
Kenney said there has been an unprecedented level of cooperation between the provinces and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but issues with supply rest on the federal government’s shoulders.
“We’ve looked, with our lawyers, at whether we could unilaterally purchase foreign-produced vaccines and the answer is no,” Kenney said. “Why? Because Health Canada brought in a regulation barring us from doing so. You can’t import a COVID-19 vaccine to the country without a Health Canada number and they won’t issue it unless it is part of the federal procurement program. They’ve actually blocked provinces from taking their own initiatives.”
The province reported 1,412 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 15,569. The number of people in hospital rose to 420 with 92 of those in intensive care. Eight additional deaths brings the death toll to 2,029.
There were 778 new variant cases identified. Variants of concern make up 52.6 per cent of all active cases in the province.
More to come…