Alberta is moving to phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination program as of Feb. 19.
According to Premier Jason Kenney, Alberta Health Services is now able to offer the vaccine to anyone living in a retirement lodge, supportive living centre, or other congregate living facilities with residents aged 75 or older.
Starting Feb. 24, anyone in Alberta 75 or older can book an appointment to receive the vaccine.
“Appointments will be based on vaccine supply of course. Seniors will be able to book their immunization appointments through AHS using an online and telephone booking system,” said Kenney.
He noted everyone living in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities in Alberta who wanted to receive the vaccine has now received both doses, approximately 29,233 people.
“About two-thirds of deaths from COVID-19 in Alberta have occurred in those settings, and we are very happy to see that since the vaccines began in long term care centers that the number of infections, outbreaks, hospitalizations and fatalities coming from long term care has fallen dramatically,” said Kenney.
Currently in the Lakeland area, there is 35 active cases in the M.D. of Bonnyville, 30 active cases in the City of Cold Lake, 36 active cases in Smoky Lake County, 15 active cases in Lac La Biche County, six active in Vermilion River County, and three active in Two Hills County.
One new death is reported on the Alberta virus data map, the ninth in Lac La Biche County.
Phase 2 details announced
The second phase of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program is expected to include approximately 1.8 million people in four sub-categories.
According to Premier Jason Kenney, the second phase is expected to begin in April, and the province has the capacity to ramp up vaccines to 200,000 per week by the end of March.
“This is of course dependent on how much supply and how many doses we get out of Ottawa,” said Kenney.
Group 2A includes people ages 65-74, First Nations and Metis people ages 50-64 both on and off-reserve or Metis Settlement, and Staff of licensed supportive living not included in Phase 1.
Group 2B includes people ages 18-64 with high-risk underlying health conditions.
“Our health officials are currently working to define exactly which underlying conditions this will apply, and in what priority, and we will announce those conditions and priorities prior to group B vaccinations starting,” said Kenney.
Group 2C includes residents and staff of eligible congregate living settings including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, group homes including disability, mental health, and other types of licensed supportive living. It also includes health care workers providing direct and acute patient care who have high potential for spread to high-risk individuals, and caregivers of Albertans who are most at risk of severe outcomes.
“Albertans that live in congregate settings are at an increased risk of exposure and can easily and quickly transmit the virus within a large group and are more likely to have health conditions that could lead to severe outcomes from COVID-19. In this sense, correctional facilities and homeless shelters are no different than any other congregate living arrangements and we have already seen ample evidence of how COVID can spread through those facilities, very rapidly,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
According to the list of outbreaks in Alberta, five out of seven provincially operated correctional facilities and remand centers have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19.
Group 2D includes people ages 50-64, and First Nations and Metis people ages 35-49 both on and off reserve or Metis Settlement.
According to Shandro, other frontline service providers who come in to contact with a number of people every day like teachers and store clerks may be added to the Phase 2 groups if the province receives either more doses of the vaccines already approved or doses of vaccines approved in the future.
“The more vaccine that arrives in Alberta, the faster we can get to phase two and begin immunizing many, many more Albertans. The pandemic is not over but we will steadily build up our defenses against it. Until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated, please continue to stay the course. Please continue to abide by the public health restrictions,” said Shandro.