By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Alberta’s Minister of Health Jason Copping took the stand on Dec. 1 to address the province on the current COVID situation — including touching on the new Omicron variant and pediatric vaccines.
Copping said they are still learning about Omicron, but insists vaccines continue to be the most effective tool to combat against COVID in general.
“This is especially important as we look towards the holidays and the travel that is associated.”
As of Dec. 1, 3.4 million Albertans have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and doses for 12 and under are now available. Copping mentioned it is now time for the province to take the next step and begin expanding access to a third COVID booster shot.
“Vaccines give long-lasting protection, but their effectiveness against infection can decrease over time. We considered the emerging evidence and along with Omicrons arrival, I am pleased to announce that we are expanding access to booster shots for all Albertans 18 and over. People will be eligible for those that are six months past their second dose. The rollout will happen in stages — with the next dose being 60 and older.”
Beginning Monday, Dec. 6, if you are six months past your second shot of the COVID vaccine, you will be able to schedule an appointment if you are 60 and older. Additional age groups will be opened depending on the supply.
After Copping gave his information, he invited Dr. Deena Hinshaw up to give more updates on the current COVID situation in Alberta.
“There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 147 schools,” noted Hinshaw. “And hospitalizations are beginning to slowly decline. However, the numbers are still very high — current ICU COVID numbers are double the peak ICU impact of the average influenza season.”
As part of this update, Hinshaw also shared additional information on Omicron.
“We have identified two more cases. These individuals, however, have done nothing wrong and are isolating, and all appropriate health follow-up is underway. To date, they only have mild symptoms and we will be identifying travel-related infections going forward.”
Hinshaw also commented on how they continue to monitor vaccine effectiveness and transmission of COVID. Saying the current evidence shows expanding access to third doses is important, and will offer additional effectiveness to all Albertans.
“If you are concerned over vaccinations, please watch the town hall held on December 1 or consult a medical professional to consider options. We have had multiple cases of parents exempting their child from all vaccines at school because they believe they will also receive the COVID vaccination without consent. This is not true — a child will only receive vaccines their parents have consented to.”