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Alberta’s best shot: progress in Covid vaccinations delayed

Wednesday, 20 January 2021. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Alberta’s best shot: progress in Covid vaccinations delayed

Alberta’s best shot: progress in Covid vaccinations delayed
By Sean Oliver 
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Alberta government announced Dec. 22 that 25,350 doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine had arrived and would be distributed across the province. 

Nine hundred and seventy-five of those doses were sent to Pincher Creek as part of the province’s phased immunization plan. 

The distribution is part of the government’s first inoculation phase, which prioritized vaccinating health-care workers in intensive-care units, respiratory therapists, and staff in long-term care and supportive-living facilities. 

A statement from Alberta Health Services indicates vaccines were available to all eligible residents in Pincher Creek and surrounding areas. The south zone also completed all immunizations at long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities last week. 

The current AHS framework allows for 50,000 vaccines to be administered a week. Plans to make doses available through pharmacists would see that amount increased to 200,000 per week by the end of March. 

The government has been rolling out vaccines in three planned phases. 

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Phase 1A in January continued vaccinating health-care workers and care staff, with the addition of home-care workers, health-care workers in emergency departments, and all residents of long-term care and supportive-living facilities. Paramedics and EMS workers were added as a priority group last week.

All 357 long-term care and designated supportive-care facilities in the province have received the first dose.

Initially, Phase 1B was to take place in February, with immunizations continuing to seniors aged 75 and older, First Nations, Métis and persons 65 and older living in a First Nations community or Métis settlement. Immunizations for health-care workers in medical, surgical and Covid-19 units was also supposed to continue in Phase 1B. 

Expansion of the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Europe, however, has interfered with vaccine shipments, delaying the planned vaccinations of First Nations and Métis individuals and seniors 75 and over.

Premier Jason Kenney held a press conference Monday to discuss the delayed shipments in vaccines, calling it a “setback.”

“I am deeply disappointed at the situation we are now facing,” the premier said. “The news on January 15 that Pfizer shipments would be cut by 20 to 80 per cent over the coming weeks only adds to our frustration and means we have had to significantly slow down our vaccination plan.”

The province’s vaccine rollout has quickly distributed its supply, resulting in first-dose appointments needing to be postponed. Remaining doses, including a previously scheduled shipment of Pfizer vaccines set to arrive this week, will be allocated to honour previously committed second-dose appointments to residents of long-term care and supportive living.

“By pausing first appointments, we can ensure enough vaccines are allocated for second dose appointments,” Premier Kenney said. “Second-dose appointments will not be cancelled, and we believe that we can administer second doses to all those who need them within the recommended time frame.”

Two doses of the vaccine are administered three to four weeks apart, depending on which manufactured Covid-19 vaccine is taken. 

In order to inoculate as many at-risk groups as possible, however, the government has extended that interval to six weeks.

The government anticipates health-care workers who received the first dose will be able to receive the second within the six-week time frame, though some uncertainty exists since it is not known how many vaccine doses will be shipped in the beginning of February.

Significant immunity to the coronavirus is achieved with the first dose, but both doses are needed for full protection. 

Since the typical immune system takes about a week to create antibodies in response to the vaccine, it is still important to follow health measures even after the second dose is administered.

The timing of Phase 2 is yet to be determined, along with identifying which groups will be given priority. Access to the vaccine for members of the public aged 16 and over is to begin before the end of 2021. 

As of Monday, 92,315 doses have been administered in Alberta. Only 17 adverse reactions following immunization have been reported.

Mild, temporary side effects to the vaccine include soreness, fatigue, headache, fever or chills, vomiting and diarrhea. Rare cases of severe allergic reactions may also occur, which is why it is recommended people stay at the vaccination site for 15 minutes after being vaccinated.

Individuals under the age of 16, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with an autoimmune or weakened immune system should not receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

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