Province's top doctor urges eligible Albertans to get AstraZeneca vaccine

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Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updated Albertans on the province's response to COVID-19 Thursday.  (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updated Albertans on the province's response to COVID-19 Thursday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The province's vow to offer all adult Albertans at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose before the end of June is dependent on the uptake of the AstraZeneca vaccine, says Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

On Thursday, Alberta's chief medical officer of health spoke at length about the vaccine and fears about the risks it presents for blood clots.

"Clearly the information that's been released with respect to this rare risk of blood clots has changed peoples' willingness to get AstraZeneca vaccine in the last few weeks," Hinshaw said.

"With all the coverage that's out there, it can be easy to lose track of how rare these blood clots actually are.

"Like any medication or therapy that has benefits, there are also some risks," she said.

The risk of a blood clot is significantly higher for people who become infected with COVID-19 than for anyone who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, she said.

About one in four people hospitalized with the disease get blood clots, she added.

Lowering the age group?

The AstraZeneca vaccine is licensed for use by people aged 18 and up but Alberta has joined other Canadian provinces in "pausing" it for people under age 55 or over 64, Hinshaw said.

However, discussions are underway which could lower the minimum age for those who receive it, she said.

"Given the Health Canada assessment and statement yesterday, it is quite possible that we'll see that maybe changing, depending on the assessment of our national and provincial immunization advisory committees."

Meanwhile, the case numbers in the province continue to rise.

Alberta reported 1,646 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day since Dec. 13.

Hinshaw said 1,020 cases of variants of concern, the most yet, were reported Thursday. Variants now account for 54 per cent of active cases, which now total 16,223.

Five more deaths were reported on Thursday.

There are 416 people now in hospital, 86 of them in intensive care.

Walk-in clinics for AstraZeneca

Hinshaw announced Alberta Health Services will open two walk-in AstraZeneca vaccine clinics on Saturday in Calgary and Edmonton. Already, walk-in vaccinations are available at 26 participating pharmacies in Calgary and Edmonton.

She also announced that Alberta Health Services will soon implement a program to immunize eligible long-stay patients in acute-care facilities across the province.

Eligible patients will be able to receive their COVID-19 immunization on site while in hospital if they wish.

Amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Hinshaw repeatedly encourages all Albertans to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

By Tuesday night, 1,004,123 doses of vaccine had been administered across the province, with 194,012 Albertans now fully immunized with two doses.

As of Thursday, the regional breakdown of active cases is:

  • Calgary zone: 7,329

  • Edmonton zone: 4,201

  • North zone: 2,174

  • Central zone: 1,515

  • South zone: 930

  • Unknown: 74