About 97,785 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to Albertans and more are likely going to be able to get their second dose thanks to another shipment.
Alberta Health confirmed the province received a shipment of Pfizer vaccine this week. That shipment included 21,450 doses.
“With 96,500 doses of vaccine delivered, thousands of the most vulnerable seniors and health-care workers now have an extra layer of protection,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday.
As of Wednesday, Alberta Health Services had administered just 7,272 second doses.
On Monday, after learning of a delay in Pfizer vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney said first dose appointments were being paused to ensure there was enough vaccine available for committed second dose appointments.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw said it seemed like there was enough vaccine in hand as well as what had been committed, even with the reduction in Pfizer supplies, to be able to offer that second dose to those who have booked it.
Alberta Health Services prioritizing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine
On Thursday, Alberta’s top doctor reiterated the province would do its “utmost” to ensure “that every individual who’s received their first dose does get their second dose within the 42-day timeline.
“If not, they’ll continue to be eligible and will receive it as soon as possible after that.”
Hinshaw said Alberta was working with the federal government and other provinces to use current allocations “as wisely as possible.”
What to know about 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta as shortages persist
She added that while there are many unknowns with the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, health officials can consider evidence from other types of vaccines.
“We know that with other vaccines, that when someone has their first dose, there is no end date at which time they’re no longer eligible for a second dose,” Hinshaw said.
“And we know, sometimes, with some other vaccines, that if there is a little bit of a longer interval between first and second dose, the overall long-lasting immune response can sometimes be better.”
On Friday, Alberta Health said 643 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the last 24 hours and 13,019 tests had been completed. That puts Alberta’s positivity rate at about 4.9 per cent.
There are currently 9,987 active cases in Alberta.
As of Friday, there are 691 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, with 115 of those in ICU.
Twelve additional deaths were reported to Alberta Health, bringing the provincial death toll to 1,512.
Of the 12 deaths reported Friday, five were in the Edmonton zone: a man in his 70s from Jasper Place Continuing Care Centre, a man in his 80s from Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre, a man in his 80s from Shepherd’s Care Vanguard, a woman in her 90s from Laurier House Lynnwood and a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital. Alberta Health said all of these cases included comorbidities.
Three deaths were reported in the Calgary zone: a man in his 80s from Bethany Calgary, a woman in her 90s from Revera Scenic Acres Retirement Residence and a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Foothills Medical Centre. All of these deaths included comorbidities.
Three deaths were reported in the Central zone: a woman in her 50, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Seasons Camrose. All three included comorbidities.
A woman in her 90s with comorbidities who was linked to the outbreak at Prairie Lake Supportive Living in the North zone also died.
Alberta will not relax public health restrictions yet, despite falling cases of COVID-19
In terms of vaccine, the province said 97,785 doses had been administered as of Jan. 21.
“Our positivity rate, active cases and hospitalizations continue to decline,” Hinshaw said Thursday. “This is good news and shows restrictions are helping to prevent more people from being exposed and getting sick with this virus, and that the overwhelming majority of Albertans are doing their part.
“We are not in the clear just yet,” she said.
“Our cases are falling, but we still have the second highest active case rates per capita in Canada.
“While our hospitalizations have decreased significantly from the peak, they remain extremely high.”
An additional 16 deaths were also announced, bringing Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,500.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, February 27, 2021 3:01PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 27, 2021 3:13PM EST
TORONTO – While it’s tempting to compare various aspects of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s newly approved COVID-19 vaccine to others, several experts cautioned against focusing on data that is not comparable and the danger of underrating the product’s ability to curb hospitalizations and deaths.
Health Canada’s long-awaited announcement Friday that a third vaccine would soon be deployed came just as the provinces faced heightened scrutiny over regional immunization plans that vary by timeline, age eligibility and priority groups.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the boost to Canada’s pandemic arsenal would mean “more people vaccinated, and sooner,” and would be key to helping contain spread.
Nevertheless, Health Canada chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma acknowledged questions over how the public should evaluate trial results that show AstraZeneca has an efficacy of 62 per cent in preventing symptomatic cases. That’s compared to the 95 per cent efficacy of the country’s two other approved vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
But Sharma stressed that all three have been shown to prevent 100 per cent of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
“Each vaccine has unique characteristics and Health Canada’s review has confirmed that the benefits of the viral vector-based vaccine, as with the other authorized vaccines, outweigh their potential risks,” Sharma said.
Several medical experts including Dr. Stephen Hwang say Canadians do not have the luxury to pick-and-choose as long as COVID-19 cases continue to rage in several hot spots and strain health-care systems.
With multiple COVID-19 projections warning of a variant-fuelled third wave without tighter suppression measures, any tool that can slow the pandemic should be embraced, he argued.
“It would be important for people to be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is first available in their community to them, rather than trying to hold out for a specific vaccine,” advised Hwang, who treats COVID-19 patients at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Still, Toronto resident Maria Brum couldn’t help but question whether AstraZeneca was safe for her 79-year-old mother.
The vaccine was not tested on people over the age of 65. Health Canada, however, says real-world data from countries already using the product suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups, promising an update on efficacy in the age group as more data comes in.
“I personally would take that one out as an option for my mom,” said Brum, who is her mother’s main caregiver.
“Maybe I am wrong but, I don’t know, I don’t see that it’s more useful. I’d like to see one that has a higher percentage of (efficacy).”
As for herself, Brum said she has allergies that she believes may put her at greater risk of adverse reactions and so she is unsure whether she can take any vaccine.
But she’d like the option of choosing, if possible, even while acknowledging that limited supply could make that unlikely.
“As a Canadian, I would like to see us all have choices, regardless of age, gender, or ability,” says Brum.
“I’m going to wait where I can have more choices.”
Such hesitancy could pose public health challenges to Canada reaching the vaccination coverage needed to build protective immunity against COVID-19, said Hwang.
He noted that Germany has seen a reported preference among some for the vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech with Pfizer, as well as a misconception that the AstraZeneca vaccine is inferior because of a lower efficacy rate.
Hwang says efficacy between vaccines cannot be compared because each involved completely different trials at different time periods, in different countries, with different volunteers of different age groups and varying trial design.
“Until we have direct comparison studies where we give people one vaccine versus another and directly compare, it’s very difficult to know for sure how it’s going to pan out,” he says.
Then there’s the fact Canada’s initial AstraZeneca doses will be made at the Serum Institute of India, which dubs its version CoviShield, while later packages will be produced at the drug giant’s own manufacturing facilities.
Hwang acknowledges that could invite further scrutiny but says the Pune, India-based biotech firm has a “strong track record of producing vaccines.”
Sharma also stressed the similarities between the two shots Friday.
“For all intents and purposes they’re the same vaccine,” said Sharma.
“There are some slight differences in terms of manufacturing and the places that they are manufactured are different. The analogy is a bit like the recipe – so the recipe for the vaccine is the same, but they’re manufactured in different kitchens.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.
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