A COVID-19 vaccine may soon be on the way for Albertans.
Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement Wednesday, as he reported an additional 1,685 COVID-19 cases in a daily press conference.
Kenney said that a vaccine could be available as early as Jan. 4, but won’t be widely available for most Albertans until the fall of 2021.
“I know people are frustrated, but this is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
The three-pronged approach from the government will start with select individuals being immunized.
During phase one over the first three months of 2021, the government anticipates they will be able to administer vaccines to approximately 435,000 Albertans – about 10 per cent of the population.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which are still subject to approval by Health Canada, will need to be administered in two doses, separated by three to six weeks. Phase one of the vaccine includes priority groups like residents of long term care, seniors on reserves and health care workers.
“We are initially focusing on Albertans that are at the highest risk of severe outcomes from the virus or those who have critical roles in health care delivery,” said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Phase two will go from April to June and the government hopes to have 30 per cent of the population immunized. Exactly who would that be was not known Wednesday.
Phase three will include all Albertans and is expected to start in the fall of 2021.
“This is the unfortunate reality that Canadians across the country face and people around the world,” Kenney said, referring to the time frame of the vaccine roll out.
The premier also announced Deputy Minister Paul Winnick will lead the province’s vaccine task force.
The announcement came as the province’s COVID-19 test positivity rate continues to climb. Over the past 24 hours, 18,432 COVID-19 tests were completed, with a test positivity rate of 9.2 per cent.
In addition, Kenney said 504 people are in hospital, including 97 in the ICU. Five hundred and sixty one people have died in Alberta since the start of the pandemic.
Red Deer now has 269 active cases of the virus, while Red Deer County has 78 active. Sylvan Lake has 65 active cases of COVID-19 and Olds has 23. Lacombe County has 47 active cases and Lacombe has 39 active. Mountain View County sits at 18 active and Kneehill County has 11. Camrose has 80 active cases and Camrose County has 30 active.
Ponoka County, Wetaskiwin County and the City of Wetaskiwin combined have 276 active cases.
Hinshaw also reported that there are active alerts or outbreaks in 397 schools, about 17 per cent of all schools in the province. Those schools have a combined total 0f 1,537 active cases. That includes 210 schools with outbreaks, including 97 0n the watch list.