CALGARY — Alberta's top doctor says the majority of the province's new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are unvaccinated or within two weeks of their first shot.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who is Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said in a social media post that 96 per cent of Albertans who have tested positive for the virus since Jan. 1 hadn't had two doses of vaccine.
She said 91 per cent of COVID-19 deaths and 95 per cent of hospital and intensive care unit admissions followed the same trend in the past month.
On Thursday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé similarly said on Twitter that 95 per cent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 last week and those who were hospitalized were not adequately vaccinated.
Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary, said Alberta is making good progress in combating COVID-19 but risks remain.
"We do still have almost a third of Albertans with no protection and that does pose a risk," said Jenne.
“It doesn't mean we're going to have a problem. But this is very much like a dry forest. And there is a forest fire risk that if we do get an uptick, it can spread fast and far with low vaccine rates."
Jenne said Alberta has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the country, despite previously leading the way.
Nearly 75 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose, while more than 60 per cent are fully vaccinated. By comparison, Ontario is nearing 80 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively.
For effective herd immunity, Jenne said more than 80 per cent of the total population needs to be fully vaccinated. Otherwise, he said Alberta could see a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
"We will not be able to achieve herd immunity, which is a powerful aspect of public health due to vaccination, unless some of these vaccine hesitant people do get vaccinated," he said.
Jenne encouraged those who are unsure about the vaccines to talk to health-care professionals.
Hinshaw said the two mRNA vaccines — Moderna and Pfizer — are performing slightly better than AstraZeneca in protecting against symptomatic infection, but all have been effective in combating severe outcomes.
With the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, she said one dose of vaccine is 57 per cent effective and two doses are 85 per cent effective.
Hinshaw said two doses of vaccine have also proven 91 per cent effective against the Alpha variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.
"This latest information is encouraging and underscores again the importance of getting fully vaccinated as soon as you can," Hinshaw said in a Twitter post.
Alberta Health's website shows more than 5,128,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the province, as of Wednesday.
On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney said 90 per cent of those most vulnerable to COVID over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated.
He said the threat of COVID overwhelming the health system has been sharply curtailed.
“We can move forward with confidence,” Kenney said Thursday during a news conference in Camrose.
“The virus will continue to circulate. Numbers will go up and they’ll go down, but what matters most is that the widespread protective effect of vaccines is real."
Alberta reported 106 new cases of COVID Thursday, bringing the active case count to 676. There are 93 Albertans currently in hospital, with 26 of those patients in intensive care.
The provincial death toll now sits at 2,320 after two additional deaths were reported.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2021.
— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton
Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press