The province’s timeline for second dose appointments could be accelerated, says Alberta’s top doctor, while concerns mount about the Delta variant and its resistance to first dose protection.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said current evidence shows initial shots of COVID-19 vaccine are “somewhat less effective” when combating the B.1.617.2 variant, also known as the Delta variant, which was first sequenced in India.
“The good news is the two doses are virtually as effective against B.1.617 as any other strain,” said Hinshaw.
“We are looking at the possibilities of second dose timing and considering when we might be able to start the next round of second doses, but we do want to make sure that anyone who hasn’t yet received a first dose, who is looking to do so, has that chance.”
Anyone who received their first dose in March or earlier is currently eligible to book a second dose, whereas those who got a shot in April and May can book starting June 14 and June 28, respectively.
Eighteen cases of the Delta variant were identified in the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 193 since the first case was recorded on April 8. This variant of concern represents less than one per cent of all variants that have been identified in Alberta.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirmed Tuesday that the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary is facing an outbreak of the highly contagious variant. There are 16 confirmed cases in patients on two units of the hospital and four health-care workers have tested positive.
Hinshaw said all but one case was hospital-acquired, meaning people were in the hospital for other reasons before their infection.
“Admissions to the two affected units are currently on hold, as are patient transfers to long-term care centres or other community-based lodging,” AHS said in a statement.
“Temporarily restricting admissions to the units reduces the patient population on the affected units and allows for greater distancing and less sharing of high-contact spaces such as bathrooms.”
Hinshaw said this variant is emerging around the world and evidence indicates it is highly transmissible, but added it only made up five per cent of all variants identified in Alberta last week.
“The bottom line is that while any new variant is a concern, we can still work together to stop transmission. Albertans can help by getting vaccinated,” she added.
Her comments came as Alberta recorded another 139 cases of COVID-19 from 3,400 tests, representing a positivity rate of about 4.2 per cent. Seventy-four of the new cases were identified as variants.
There are currently 336 people in hospital, 85 of whom are in ICU.
Three new deaths raised Alberta’s death toll to 2,251.