By Ian Croft
The end is now in sight for COVID-19 as the United Conservative Party announced their plans to distribute the vaccine in Alberta and says that the general public should be able to be vaccinated by fall 2021.
On Dec. 2 during the COVID-19 update live stream Premier Jason Kenney stated that Alberta is expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in early January.
“To those at home and in the hospital fighting this disease and to those who care for them please know that Albertans have your back and we’re doing everything we can in our power to support you,” Kenney said. “But in amidst all this heartache and loss hope remains. Around the world there has been great progress on development of COVID-19 vaccines we know that effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be ready for distribution here in Canada within weeks. And we cannot control when these vaccines will arrive in Alberta we can make sure that when we get them we are ready to roll them out as quickly as we can. That’s why I am pleased to announce I have appointed Municipal Affairs deputy minister Paul Wynnyk to lead Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, a multidisciplinary team drawn from across the public sector and public service that will execute Alberta vaccine distribution.”
Kenney’s vaccination strategy has three phases and will begin with immediately vaccinating long-term care and designated supported living residents and staff in those facilities, on-reserve First Nations individuals over age 65, seniors aged 75 and older, and health-care workers most needed to ensure workforce capacity. In this first phase Alberta is anticipating that they will be able to administer vaccine to 10 per cent of Alberta’s population. The second phase of the plan involves focusing on other prioritized populations and is expected to begin in April. In this phase the government is anticipating to have vaccinated 30 per cent of Alberta’s population. The third and final stage of the plan is when the vaccine will finally be available to the general public which is planned to occur in the fall of 2021. Kenney then stated how it is important for all Albertans to be vaccinated while announcing the removal of mandatory inoculation from the Public Health Act.
“Smoove and rapid vaccine distribution will not only be essential to our economic recovery but they will be a matter of life and death for many Albertans and their families. Before I continue I want to be clear Alberta’s government will not make any mandatory vaccination. Some think that this is controversial but we don’t live in a country where the government can inject you with something against your will. In this I follow the spirit of Sir Wilfrid Laurier who famously said, ‘I would rather try the way of persuasion there is more to gain appealing to the heart and soul of man then to compel them to do a thing.'”
Kenney seems to have actually misquoted Laurier.
“Do you not believe that there is more to be gained by appealing to the heart and soul of men rather than to compel them to do a thing?” was actually the quote from Laurier in 1895.
Kenney then continued.
“In fact the Alberta government will soon amend the Public Health Act to remove that power of mandatory inoculation that existed in law since 1910. But we need as many Albertans as possible to get vaccinated and let me be clear about that. I will certainly choose to receive this vaccine when it is my turn and I will strongly urge others to do so.”
Despite neither the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine being approved by the federal government, Kenney and Wynnyk are making sure that when the vaccines do become approved Alberta has the necessary infrastructure and plans in place.
Both vaccines are required to be stored and transported in subzero temperature so the province will be utilizing 30 vaccine depots located across the province, 13 of which are run by Alberta Health Services while the remaining 17 are not run by Alberta Health Services but will still have the necessary equipment to properly store and handle the vaccines. Due to the Pfizer vaccine requiring storage and transportation at negative 80 degrees Celsius currently only three AHS vaccine depots are able to store it. AHS is currently working on acquiring improvements for their cold storages so more of their depot can house the Pfizer vaccine. While the vaccine is being distributed Kenney stated that Albertans would still have to follow all public health guidelines which includes social distancing, wearing masks where it is mandatory, frequently washing your hands, getting tested, and staying at home if you feel sick.
“Let’s be clear all of us will have to continue following public health guidelines even after the first wave of vaccinations has occurred. Now I know that people are getting tired and frustrated but this is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can see this critical juncture when we will get past the terrible damage that COVID-19 has caused for our society…. It’s up to every one of us to do the right thing and abide by the new measures announced last week and all of the public health guidelines and restrictions. That’s the only way to reduce the spread and lift those measures as soon as possible while protecting our healthcare system.”
Wynnyk went into more detail about the plan to distribute the vaccines across Alberta as he explained the role that Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, and his task force will have.
“Alberta is ready to receive its first shipment when it becomes available. Planning has been under- way for months and we are well prepared to move forward. The COVID- 19 vaccine task force is working very closely with Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services to put our plans into action. Alberta Health will direct the delivery of vaccines and use the provincial vaccine depot, Alberta Health Services depots to distribute the vaccines. Alberta Health Services is responsible for the vaccination implementation services including administering vaccines through public health clinics and nurses, setting up the depot’s distribution logistics, and the quality assurance. The task force will support the planning and the execution with oversight and coordination. I look forward to the challenge ahead and I want to be very clear that I do not look at these vaccines simply as objects to be delivered or work task to be completed. Each and every dose of vaccine represents an Albertan who needs to be protected and is vital to protecting not just their health but their livelihoods as well. My commitment to Albertans is that we will do everything in our control to ensure no Albertan has to wait any longer than absolutely necessary.”
On another COVID-19 update press conference held on Dec. 8, Dr. Hinshaw once again updated how Alberta is coping with the pandemic. In the last 24 hours, as of time of writing, there has been 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 discovered in Alberta, bringing the total number of active cases up to 20,388 with more than 19,000 test completed.
The total number of people who are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 is 654 with 112 individuals in the ICU. Nine more people have passed away due to COVID-19. Taber and surrounding municipal district has a total of 63 active cases. Canada as a whole has had 430,925 cases of COVID-19 with 346,124 individuals recovered.
There are four schools in Taber and surrounding municipal district that have reported cases of COVID-19. Taber Christian School Alternative Program, Tween Valley Christian School and Vauxhall Junior Senior High School had between 2-4 cases and are currently open.
W. R. Myers High School is under watch status with five or more cases reported between students or staff within the school. Chinook Regional Hospital, Edith Cavell Care Centre, Good Samaritan West Highlands Centre, House of Cars and two private gatherings all have been declared as outbreak locations within Lethbridge. Medicine Hat only has three outbreak locations, those being South Country Village, Element Technical Services and Moduline Industries. Brooks only has two with Agecare Sunrise Gardens and Newbrook Lodge. Finally, Redcliff Legion has also been declared an outbreak location.