By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Alberta on Monday, with the immunization of health-care professionals to start today.
Tyler Shandro, minister of health, made the announcement in a news conference on Monday, Dec. 14.
“The news is a lot bigger and it’s a lot better (than originally anticipated),” he said.
The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived and is safely stored at designated sites in Calgary and Edmonton.
Shandro noted they were taking the final step to prepare, which included hands-on training of staff to start immunizing health-care professionals today.
They will be immunizing intensive care unit doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists, and eligible continuing care centre staff in Calgary and Edmonton.
He noted they chose those two cities because the case numbers of COVID-19 infection are the highest there, and the health system is facing the greatest challenge in terms of capacity. This will give the system real help in dealing with the challenges.
There is also more help on the way beyond the 3,900 doses that arrived Monday.
Alberta can expect another 25,350 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, bringing the total number of doses to more than 29,000.
These 29,000 doses will be administered to health-care professionals by the end of December.
“These next few weeks are going to be the toughest yet, but relief is on the way and it’s starting this week,” Shandro said.
He noted doctors want the vaccine more for their patients than themselves.
“We’ll start getting it to them very soon,” he said.
Pfizer is also requiring these doses to be administered at the site of delivery, so the vaccine cannot get out to continuing care facilities yet, but Shandro said it will be very, very soon.
For now, they have expanded the number of dedicated vaccine sites to eight so they can expand this early phase to more health-care professionals across the province.
Shandro explained this directly protects health-care professionals and patients indirectly by reducing the risk of transmission to and from staff.
He stressed no vaccine is 100 per cent effective though.
“But vaccination means that doctors, nurses and others can go to work with less fear of getting sick themselves or bringing COVID home to their families or exposing their patients without knowing it,” he said.
Alberta Health Services has been contacting those eligible for vaccination and will continue to reach out to set up appointments for immunization.
Shandro said the province also expects to receive another vaccine, the Moderna vaccine later in December. However, it has not yet been approved by Health Canada.
The health minister said Alberta does expect a significant number of doses in December though.
This vaccine will not require the ultra-cold storage the Pfizer vaccine requires, so the hope is to get it to the first continuing care residents before Dec. 31.
However, he will share more information as it becomes available.
“We’re getting these vaccines out as fast as humanly possible,” Shandro said. “I have to emphasize this is a process that will take months.”
He also urged everyone to stay the course. If people hear the news of the vaccine and think the crisis is passing it will cause a whole new crisis. Instead, everyone has to continue to follow the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the virus, because they have to get down the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of admissions to hospital and intensive care units.
“We have to stay the course,” he said. “We have to follow the restrictions that are in place and we have to protect ourselves and each other.”
Vaccine began arriving in Alberta earlier this week
By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer