Alberta is looking at the possibility of accelerating second dose appointments as it bolsters its contact tracing work to contain the spread of highly infectious variants, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday.
The province's chief medical officer of health said the delta variant, first identified in India and now driving a wave of new cases in the U.K., made up about five per cent of the total number of new variants found in the province last week.
A single dose of a Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is only about 33 per cent effective against the variant, according to a recent finding from Public Health England.
While Hinshaw says the variant "is a very small proportion" of Alberta's cases, the province is watching it closely as it considers the timing of second doses.
Currently, anyone vaccinated with their first dose in March or earlier can book their second dose. Albertans who got their shot in April can book a second dose starting June 14 and those vaccinated in May can book starting June 28.
"So I would really encourage anyone who hasn't yet had a first dose to book their appointment soon, as we consider the timing of that option for possibly accelerating second dose appointments," she said.
Contact tracers are making a second call to any active case identified as a variant other than the province's dominant alpha strain, first identified in the U.K.
"There's extra work then to understand where those cases are spreading, to do additional containment work and those are the kinds of measures, especially as we see our overall case counts reduced, that can help us to minimize the spread," she said.
Infections on the decline
While Alberta continued to report a steady decline in its leading COVID-19 indicators, including hospitalizations, demand has slowed from eligible Albertans seeking a first dose of the vaccine.
The province administered 36,276 doses on Monday, but just 9,832 were first doses. That is the second consecutive day when fewer than 10,000 first doses were given.
The province reported 139 new cases on Tuesday. Active cases fell to 4,431, the lowest mark since March 9, Hinshaw said. Total active cases have dropped by over 20,000 over the past month, she said.
There were 336 people being treated for COVID-19 hospital including 85 in intensive care.
The province reported three new COVID-19 deaths, a man in his 40s from the Calgary health zone and two men in their 60s from the North and Central zones.
The positivity rate was 4.18 per cent on 3,443 tests.
Personal responsibility to manage risk
Alberta's reopening plan is tied to vaccination and hospital rates.
Stage 2, which will launch Thursday, required 60 per cent of eligible Albertans to be vaccinated and fewer than 500 COVID-19 patients in hospital.
As of Tuesday, 67 per cent of eligible Albertans have received their first dose and 15.1 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses.
Hinshaw says even as the province eyes a move into Stage 3 of its reopening plan, when most restrictions are set to be lifted, people will still need to manage risk, for example by wearing a mask in certain circumstances even if it's not legally required.
"People will still need to be thinking about managing risk just as we manage risk every day,in every aspect of our lives, and continuing to ramp up that second dose protection as quickly as possible to make sure that we do have that population-level protection in place," she said.
Under the reopening plan, Alberta will move to Stage 3 two weeks after 70 per cent of eligible Albertans have at least one dose.
"The absence of legal requirements doesn't mean that we stop protecting each other. We still need to be courteous and respect each other's needs. That could mean masking in certain settings even if it's not legally required."