The Alberta government is defending its COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan after calls for the province to be more transparent about its process for distributing the shots.
Premier Jason Kenney’s government had promised to hand out the first 29,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says they were on track to reach that goal — if a few days late — by the end of Tuesday.
“AHS is doing everything they can to immunize as many people as possible with the available vaccine, including providing immunizations in the evenings, on the weekends,” Shandro said during the province’s first press conference of the year Tuesday.
Shandro said much of the progress depends on when the shipments arrive.
“Our commitment is to rolling them out as soon as we get then in,” he said, adding that the original end-of-December goal was “aggressive”.
“It was an aggressive goal, and we’re getting there only a few days later than we had hoped, in spite of the need to plan around delivery times and amounts that are consistently and constantly shifting, outside of our control as a province,” he said.
“Every province and every country is dealing with the same issues and adapting to them in their own context.”
NDP health Critic David Shepherd says the rollout has been riddled with confusion. He’s calling on the province to publish an online dashboard including daily information on the number of doses administered by region, and inventory levels.
“It would be a means for Albertans to hold government to account,” he said. “To have an understanding of the benchmarks and how we are actually proceeding in the government’s plans.”
Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alberta, agreed there’s a need for more transparency.
“I would hope there is already an intention to have more frequent updates around the vaccine rollout, and if that’s not intended, I think it’s actually a very reasonable request,” she said.
Shandro said another shipment with an expected 13,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is on the way to Alberta this week.
“We will continue to ramp up when the supply ramps up,” he said.
Alberta Health Services is currently vaccinating about 3,000 people per day, and has launched an online appointment booking tool for health-care workers.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, reminded Albertans that it will still be a long time before the vaccine can be given to the general public.
“This is a new year, but there is still a stretch of hard road before us,” she said.
“While vaccines are arriving, shipments are limited and it will be months before we will be able to offer immunization to the general population. While we work to offer vaccine to those at highest risk, we must continue to act as the vaccine for each other right now.”
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