Is Alberta ready for Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccine rollout?

With news from the federal government Thursday of an accelerated COVID-19 vaccine schedule, Alberta has still not laid out who will be eligible for the vaccine in Phase 2.

Nor has it laid out how the vaccine will be administered.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said his government expected to release those details “as early as Friday.”

Read more: Health law, policy experts criticize Alberta’s lack of Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccine plan

On Thursday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro didn’t give a specific date during the COVID-19 update, but said those details should be expected “fairly soon.”

“I think we made sure that we’ve communicated to people the principles of how these decisions are to be made are based on vulnerability, on equity, on making sure that we are looking at the evidence,” Shandro said.

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Click to play video 'Criticism over lack of plan for Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout' Criticism over lack of plan for Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Criticism over lack of plan for Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Dr. Noel Gibney, the co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s COVID-19 pandemic response committee, and a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, doesn’t understand why Alberta has not provided any further details yet, saying many other provinces have outlined their plans for Phase 2 and even Phase 3.

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“By virtue of not outlining the schedule, this also suggests that they don’t necessarily have a plan to get it out there now that indeed it is going to be arriving in the near future,” he said.

“It’s important this month to be figuring out how are we actually going to deliver these doses locally.

“And I think the lack of information is undermining the public’s confidence in the ability of the government to actually get the vaccine out to them.”

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Read more: 9,000 more Alberta health-care workers to be vaccinated as 263 new COVID-19 cases identified

Shandro said Alberta has sufficient capacity to get out thousands of doses of vaccine quickly — pointing to the hundreds of thousands of Albertans that are vaccinated every flu season — but the issue has been the delayed shipments from the federal government. If those were to suddenly pick up, Alberta could handle that too, he said.

“If there was suddenly approval for a vaccine candidate that is currently awaiting approval from Health Canada and we received an unforeseen amount, we do have, and we have built up through the last couple of months, the ability for us to have that surge capacity as well and certain innovations,” he said.

“Rapid flow-through clinics is going to be one opportunity for us if we ever do need that surge capacity we will do that.”

Click to play video 'Alberta health minister says province has capacity for COVID-19 vaccine rollout but faces shipment restrictions' Alberta health minister says province has capacity for COVID-19 vaccine rollout but faces shipment restrictions

Alberta health minister says province has capacity for COVID-19 vaccine rollout but faces shipment restrictions

Shandro also said Alberta will go through pharmacies and family doctors as well as public health and Alberta Health Services once we have a “constant and steady supply of vaccines,” but didn’t provide details of what that might look like.

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Read more: Committee tentatively endorses prioritizing Calgary critical workers in vaccine rollout

On Thursday, the federal government announced millions of additional vaccinations would be administered between April and September.

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Coronavirus: Early data shows COVID-19 vaccine having impact on hospitalizations, death rates in Canada

A total of 36 million Canadians were expected to be vaccinated by the end of September. Now that number has increased to 42 million people by the end of September.

“This is huge,” Gibney said.

“It’s obviously all been bad news up to now this potentially turns this around and gives us a chance to get Canadians vaccinated at a much faster rate than I think we had previously anticipated.

“It’s also really important, given the fact that we’re worried about these variants of the coronavirus.”

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Read more: The big picture: a timeline of increasing COVID-19 variants in Alberta

Alberta is expected to receive 46,800 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine before the weekend.

During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, Alberta was able to vaccinate about 45 per cent of the population, Gibney said. In order to achieve herd immunity, upwards of 60 to 70 per cent of Albertans will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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