Workers at 2 Edmonton hospitals getting vaccines early in effort to curb COVID variant outbreaks

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Edmonton's Grey Nuns Community Hospital is operated by Covenant Health. (Josee St-Onge/CBC - image credit)
Edmonton's Grey Nuns Community Hospital is operated by Covenant Health. (Josee St-Onge/CBC - image credit)

Two Edmonton hospitals are set to begin vaccinating health-care workers ahead of schedule as the province attempts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 variants.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Thursday the province would begin immunizing at-risk workers at hospitals and other high-risk sites experiencing significant variant-linked outbreaks.

"This intervention is needed because … cases of COVID-19 are rising fast in Alberta. Spread is increasing particularly with variants of concern," Hinshaw said.

"To put it plainly, we are once again at a dangerous time."

Alberta Health Services spokesperson Kerry Williamson said vaccinations will be offered to all health-care workers at acute care sites with at least two COVID-19 outbreaks involving a variant strain.

Williamson said only two hospitals in the province currently meet the criteria, both in Edmonton: the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

Vaccinations will be offered in the coming days for those eligible. The list includes staff, physicians, students doing clinical placements and contracted service providers.

Immunization for health-care workers at acute care facilities is slated for phase 2C of the vaccine rollout, which is expected to begin in May, depending on supply.

Three deaths have been associated with an outbreak at the Grey Nuns declared on March 13. Two units are on outbreak. There is one active case in a patient who tested positive. Four health-care workers have also tested positive.

Two outbreaks at the Royal Alexandra were declared on March 21 and April 1. Five health-care workers have tested positive.

On Thursday, Alberta reported 875 new cases of COVID-19 and identified 322 new cases of variants of concern.

The variant strains, more infectious than the original strain, have pushed the number of active cases in the province to 8,653.

Variants of concern now account for one-third of active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.