Alberta reports 1,345 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths

·3 min read
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, updated vaccine rollout at a COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday. (CBC - image credit)
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, updated vaccine rollout at a COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday. (CBC - image credit)

Alberta reported 1,345 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and five more deaths from the illness.

Screening detected 816 new cases linked to variants of concern, with the B117 variant first detected in the United Kingdom now the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Alberta.

Hospitals across the province were treating 476 patients with the illness, including 105 in ICU beds.

About 1.2 million doses of the three available vaccines have been administered in the province so far, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday at a news conference.

That includes, Kenney said:

  • 82 per cent of those aged 75 and older.

  • 73 per cent of those aged 65 to 74.

  • 50 per cent of those aged 60 to 64.

The premier said Alberta has the capacity to administer more than 300,000 doses a week and still plans to offer first shots to all adults in the province by June 30 if vaccine supply keeps up.

The premier started off by thanking the thousands of people who have signed up for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and said he booked his own appointment to get a shot on Thursday.

Watch | Kenney tells eligible Albertans to get immunized

By mid-afternoon on Tuesday, he said, 67,900 appointments had been booked for the next 10 days. The province has about 160,000 doses of the vaccine left.

"Despite delays and disappointments, our rollout keeps gaining steam," Kenney said. "We promised to offer every adult a first dose by June 30 as long as supply keeps coming in, and we will keep promise if that supply shows up."

2nd dose 'confusion'

Kenney was joined at the news conference by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, who took the opportunity to clear up what she called some "confusion" about the vaccine rollout.

"Due to limited supply, as you know, we extended the interval between the first and second doses for all vaccines to a maximum of 16 weeks," Hinshaw said.

"However, once we finish offering first doses to all Albertans 16 and over, we will start second doses as soon as our supply allows. This will likely be in later June, based on our current supply estimates.

"So if you have had a first dose, please do not yet call your pharmacy or AHS to book your second dose. It will take a few more months to get enough supply for both first doses for everyone and to begin second doses.

"As more doses arrive in the coming months, we will look to shorten this interval whenever possible, but this will likely not be until later in the year."

12-week interval for AstraZeneca

There has also been some confusion about the interval for AstraZeneca vaccine, Hinshaw said, for which the province is using a 12-week interval between first and second doses, depending on the supply.

"The reason for this is that clinical trials for AstraZeneca showed better overall protection when the interval was longer than when it was shorter," she said. "So even if we had enough supply to give second doses sooner, the shortest interval we would use for this vaccine would be 12 weeks.

"The extension of timing for all second doses is based on current limited supply and evidence showing that this first dose offers significant protection.

"We are also closely monitoring the emerging evidence around timing of second doses for cancer patients and others who are severely immune-compromised. We are consulting with provincial and national partners and will update Albertans if any change is made for these groups."

Alberta expanded its immunization campaign on Tuesday, lowering the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to those born in 1981 or earlier.