Beaverlodge town council decided Monday night it wouldn’t be mounting a challenge to the province’s vaccine rollout plan.
Coun. Terry Dueck had expressed opposition last month to this phase of the vaccination plan that includes those 75 and older and those over 65 on First Nations reserves.
He argued all seniors should be vaccinated and suggested council formalize the concern in a letter to Alberta Health and Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews.
After researching the issue, Beaverlodge chief administrative officer Jeff Johnston recommended not going forward with a letter.
Johnston’s report supported the scientific rationale for the age differential; he also suggested a letter likely wouldn’t impact the province’s vaccine priorities.
Premier Jason Kenney addressed the issue earlier that day during the COVID update.
“We have seen significantly worse health outcomes from COVID-19 for people in our indigenous and Métis communities,” Kenney said.
“I think this report (by Johnston) shows us why the decision was made - we wanted clarification and I think this report answers the question,” Coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus said at this week’s town council meeting.
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians were added to the list of vaccine recipients Monday, joining health-care workers in ICU and emergency departments, long-term care staff, home-care workers, long-term care and designated supported living residents.
Vaccines for seniors 75 and up and First Nations reserve and Métis community residents 65 and up will be next, Kenney said Monday.
After January, Alberta would likely have the capacity to administer 50,000 vaccine doses per week, he said.
Still, he conceded vaccine supplies are running low and may run out next week without “a huge surprise shipment.” The doses may be short by 20,000 next week, Kenney said.
As of Monday, 52,318 doses have been administered in Alberta, according to the government.
Johnston’s report to Beaverlodge council states Tom Wong, Indigenous Services Canada’s chief medical officer, found the age at which indigenous people face severe consequences due to COVID-19 is 15 to 20 years less than the general population.
Comorbidities of COVID-19 include diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease, with indigenous communities having higher diabetes rates than other communities, according to Johnston’s report.
According to Diabetes Canada, age-standardized prevalence rates for diabetes are 17.2 per cent in First Nations on reserves and five per cent in the general population.
Johnston also wrote in the council agenda package there was a risk a letter challenging the vaccine rollout may reflect badly on the town “in light of movements like Black Lives Matter etc.”
But Dueck defended asking the question on Monday and said it was wrong to suggest the question was racist.
“All we did is ask is ask why any other 65-year-old in Alberta is different is different than the 65-year-old First Nations person,” Dueck said.
Coun. Gena Jones’ motion to accept the report and not take any further action was carried.
Grande Prairie and area received its first 1,000 doses of Moderna vaccine Dec. 30, following 975 doses of Pfizer vaccine Dec. 24.
The first person to receive a COVID vaccine in Grande Prairie was Kristen Davis, an ICU registered nurse at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, who had the shot before Christmas.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News