Coronavirus Canada Updates: Alberta COVID-19 vaccinations to start next week with hospital, care staff

Coronavirus: Manitobans aged 12 to 17 now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
Coronavirus: Manitobans aged 12 to 17 now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta is to start distributing the COVID-19 vaccine next week to front-line health workers and caregivers.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the first round of the vaccine will be administered on Dec. 16.

The 3,900 doses will be given to intensive care unit doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers.

The Royal Alexandra and the University of Alberta hospitals in Edmonton and at the Foothills Hospital and Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary will be the initial vaccination sites.

Shandro says Pfizer has advised the first vaccine shipment must be used where it is delivered, so it cannot be shipped to care homes.

But he says by inoculating staff, care-home residents will be safer.

“I think we all could use a bit of good news right now,” Shandro told a news conference Wednesday.

“These staff are exhausted, and they put themselves at risk for 10 months. They need support.

“I hope that seeing the immunizations begin will show there’s light at the end of the tunnel for them, for their patients and most of all for all of us.”

A second batch of vaccine is slated to arrive in late December.

Shandro said workers who can get the shot will be notified in the coming days.

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses one month apart to be effective and needs to be stored at ultralow temperatures of -80 C.

The provincial government previously announced it would be administering the vaccine as doses arrive in three phases over the next year.

Priority health workers, the elderly and care-home residents are to get the shots in the first phase.

The second phase, with about a third of all Albertans getting shots, is to begin in the spring. Those recipients have yet to be determined.

The rest of the population is expected to get shots starting in the summer.

Premier Jason Kenney has said vaccination will not be mandatory.

Earlier Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine and its partner BioNTech, giving the official green light for vaccinations to begin.

The department also released a detailed vaccination plan, which suggests the wider Canadian population will be able to get vaccines starting in April, and that everyone wanting the shot could get it before the end of 2021.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said it will be a long process to get everyone vaccinated. She encouraged Albertans to continue to follow health restrictions in the meantime.

“It is remarkable that we will have a vaccine available in the same year that this pandemic arrived in Canada,” said Hinshaw.

“(But) it will be some time before we can immunize most Albertans. Until then, we must be the vaccine for each other.”

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