WESTLOCK — Long term care and designated supportive living facilities in the North Zone will complete vaccinations by the end of today.
Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement today during the COVID-19 update but did not specify whether this included both residents and staff. Inoculation in all Albertan facilities, Kenney said, will likely be finished by Jan. 18.
Separately, News Staff confirmed with Homeland Housing CEO Raymond Cormie last week that healthcare staff at the Smithfield and Pembina Lodges in Westlock, where vaccines for residents were administered Jan. 3, were in the process of being vaccinated.
Support workers in housekeeping, food service or administration were not included.
At the Westlock Continuing Care Centre, where the COVID-19 outbreak that claimed the life of a 90-year-old resident is still active, News Staff independently confirmed that at one resident had received the Moderna vaccine Jan. 4. Repeated attempts to reach Alberta Health Services or Health minister Tyler Shandro’s press staff for confirmation were unsuccessful.
Today is the first confirmation from the provincial government that inoculation in the Westlock area is underway.
There are 63 long term care and designated supportive living facilities in the North Zone, which includes all Town & Country areas: Athabasca, Barrhead and Westlock.
Expanding eligibility and delivery
Starting today, paramedics and emergency medical technicians will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kenney said 46,791 doses of the two approved vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTEch and Moderna, were delivered as of end-of-day yesterday, and the province is on track to deliver more than 50,000 doses by the end of today.
Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw added this is about 80 per cent of the current supply. At the current rate, however, Alberta could run out of vaccines by the end of next week, Kenney warned.
There are 69 vaccine clinics across the province, Shandro said, and mobile units carry the vaccines to long term care and designated supportive living facilities or satellite clinics in hospitals.
The province is also “actively hiring vaccinators,” Shandro said.
Plans for Phase 1B of the immunization rollout for people aged 75 and older or First Nations aged 65 and older will be announced soon.
More doses needed
By the end of January, Kenney said, AHS is in a position to deliver 50,000 doses per week but the goal is to expand capacity to 200,000 doses per week by the end of March.
“Alberta’s capacity to give people the jab will soon outstrip available vaccine supplies and we’re doing everything humanly possible to roll out these life-saving vaccines as quickly as they arrive,” Kenney said.
By March 15, Alberta is set to receive 132,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and another 677,000 doses of both vaccines by the end of March. The doses set to arrive would be enough for around 250,000 people. Both vaccines are two-shot immunizations.
“It’s not a blame game but we need more doses,” said Kenney, who maintains that inoculation capacity will “far, far outstrip the incoming supply.”
Few adverse effects are normal
Since the start of the vaccine rollout in December, seven adverse effects to the vaccines have been reported, which is common in any immunization program.
Most were minor, Hinshaw said, since ‘adverse effects’ include any health problems following the vaccine but not necessarily caused by it.
They included things like swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea or a rash. Three people had allergic reactions, but none were anaphylactic. Second doses have been postponed until an allergy assessment is completed.
“As we do with any vaccines, we are watching closely to ensure that if any safety signals emerge, we will be able to detect them immediately. Like all other provinces and territories, we are working closely with the public health agency of Canada to monitor for adverse events,” Hinshaw said.
She added that clinical trials conducted in multiple countries during development of the vaccines found no safety concerns, and the vaccines have been approved by Health Canada, which “has one of the most robust regulatory systems for new vaccines in the world.”
Watch Dr. Hinshaw's Jan. 11 COVID-19 update: