By Justin Seward
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney hosted a rural roundtable discussion with weekly newspapers June 11. A reporter asked Kenney about why southern Alberta had the lowest rate of vaccination rates and what can be done about the issue.
“We do have the lowest levels of first doses, but we have the highest level of second doses,” said Kenney, in response to the reporter’s question.
“We, as a province, made a decision to go deeper on the second doses back in the winter than the other provinces did. We covered off more of seniors and vulnerable people with second dose vaccines. I think that proved to be wise in retrospect because those are the folks by far most vulnerable to COVID.”
Kenney said the average age of death in Alberta from COVID is 82.
“Right now, we’re approaching 80 per cent second dose full vaccination coverage of Albertans over the age of 75 — well ahead of other provinces,” said the premier.
Kenney did confirm it’s true Alberta is seeing a first dose demand beginning to diminish.
With that, the province was expected to announce incentives to get the first dose of a COVID vaccine.
“We’re also rebooting our ad campaigns and hopefully (newspapers) are getting placements in your papers across the province,” he said.
“Let me be frank about this — we do want to focus on rural because we are seeing significantly lower vaccine uptake in many parts of rural Alberta compared to metropolitan areas.”
Kenney has some suggestions, as to why the vaccination rate is lower in the south region. “I think we see two things here.”
“We have what I would call vaccine hesitancy — which tends to be stronger among older, rural folks. And maybe they think just because they live more distant or they’re not in a crowded neighbourhood they’re safer from COVID. Maybe some people have heard misinformation about the safety of the vaccines, as well.”
The premier thinks the second challenge is within younger men. “I think younger men — they imagine they’re completely immune to any kind of sickness.”
“And it’s true, younger healthy people are pretty much unaffected by COVID. But they need to understand if they’re not vaccinated, they can still transmit it to other people.”
Alberta has administered over 3.2 million doses and over 634,000 are fully immunized as of June 9.