Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a press conference in Calgary on Friday, May 29, 2020. The Alberta government has committed $20 million toward end-of-life care. Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the money is the first step to improve access to palliative care for Albertans and their families. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

COVD-19 vaccine to be available in Alberta next week

Doctors, ICU nurses and long-term care workers first in line

The COVID-19 vaccine is on its way to Alberta.

Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro made the announcement that the Pfizer vaccine will be administered on Dec. 16 to doctors and nurses in the ICU, as well as long-term care workers.

They will make 3,900 doses available to these workers and a second dose will need to be administered in approximately one month.

Shandro said Alberta Health Services will be reaching out to those who are eligible.

“Alberta is ready to deliver this vaccine. We’re ready to deliver it safely, appropriately and without delay,” Shandro said.

Earlier Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. The vaccine will only be administered at the site of delivery and will not be taken to long-term care facilities.

The first acute care staff to receive the vaccine will be from Foothills Hospital, Peter Lougheed in Calgary, as well as The University of Alberta and the Royal Alex hospitals in Edmonton.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said it’s exciting news and remarkable that a vaccine will be available in the same year that this pandemic arrived in Canada.

“The arrival of a vaccine is positive news, it will be some time before we can immunize most Albertans,” she said.

The announcement came Wednesday as the province reported an additional 1,460 cases of COVID-19 and on the heels of tighter restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus.

Alberta now has 685 people in hospital, with 121 in the ICU. There were also 13 new deaths Wednesday, now 653 people have died from the virus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“the path down the peak is much slower than the way up,” Hinshaw added in her daily remarks.

Alberta completed 16,792 COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours and the province’s test positivity rate is 8.9 per cent.

The Central zone sits at 1,500 cases of COVID-19, with 56 people in hospital and six in the ICU. Twenty-three people in the region have died from the virus.

In Red Deer, there are now 385 active cases of the virus and Red Deer County has 98. Lacombe County sits at 66 active and Lacombe has 46. Sylvan Lake has 66 active cases of COVID-19 and Olds 29 active. Mountain View County has 27 active and Kneehill County sits at 15. Camrose has 92 active and Camrose County has 37 active.

Ponoka County, Wetaskiwin County and the City of Wetaskiwin combined have 263 active cases.

There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 430 schools, about 18 per cent of all schools in the province. Only 293 of those schools are still open with students. All of those schools combined have 1,726 cases. That includes 109 schools on the watch list.

In her update, Hinshaw also clarified that with the new measures set for Sunday, outdoor gatherings are not allowed, such as at bonfires or parks.