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Alberta reports 195 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths –



Alberta reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 12 more deaths from the illness.

Across the province, 427 people were being treated for the illness in hospitals, including 78 in ICU beds.

More than 124,000 doses of vaccine have been administered so far, with 32,700 people now fully immunized with two doses.

There were 5,831 active cases. A regional breakdown of those cases on Tuesday was:

  • Calgary zone: 2,335
  • Edmonton zone: 1,748
  • Central zone: 656
  • South zone: 325
  • North zone: 758
  • Unknown: 9

One more case of a virus variant was detected over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 104 in the province. Of those, 97 are the strain first identified in the United Kingdom and seven have been the strain first identified in South Africa.

“I know there are concerns about one of these more contagious variants becoming the dominant strain in the province,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday at a news conference. “This is a serious worry for me, too.”

According to statistics posted Tuesday on the Alberta government website, more than half of the 104 cases are in the Calgary zone.

The breakdown shows the Calgary zone with 52 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., compared to 32 in Edmonton zone and 13 in Central zone. Calgary zone also has five cases of the other variant of concern, with the other two in Edmonton zone.

Hinshaw said it’s important to keep the numbers in context and to understand what they indicate about the spread of the virus.

“For context, the first variant case in Alberta was identified retrospectively in a sample originally taken on Dec. 15 from a returning traveller,” she said. “From that day until now, there have been 104 positive variant cases identified among all the samples that have been taken.”

During that same time, more than 43,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the province, which means variant cases made up one-quarter of one per cent of all the cases identified since Dec. 15.

‘Variants are still very rare’

“This does not in any way minimize the threat that these variants pose or the impact they will have if we let them spread widely,” Hinshaw said. “However, so far, variants are still very rare and we are working hard to keep it that way.”

Hinshaw said there are six classes in five different schools where a student attended while infectious with a variant of the virus.

“To date, there has been no in-class transmission of variants of concern that has been reported to me,” she said.

The precautions in place in schools appear to be protective against in-class spread of the virus, including the variants, Hinshaw said. 

“Alberta Health Services has followed up with all of these locations, has offered double testing to all of the students in those classes, and in some cases their household contacts, when there has been a delay based on the timelines of testing.”

Monday marked the first step on Alberta’s four-stage plan to ease restrictions. 

Restaurants were allowed to open their dining rooms and gyms were allowed to open for one-on-one training sessions. 

Sports and entertainment-related activities resumed in schools. Lessons and practices for youth team-based minor sports and athletics were once again allowed but games remain prohibited.

Indoor gatherings remain banned

Retail stores and churches can operate at 15 per cent capacity. Entertainment venues such as museums and movie theatres remain closed.

All indoor gatherings remain banned. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.

The four-stage reopening is tied mainly to hospitalization rates. There will be a three-week lag between each stage to assess any impact on infection rates. 

A decision on Step 2 is expected to be made on Feb. 28. If 450 or fewer people are then in hospital with the illness, restrictions could be further eased.

The restrictions have been in place since mid-December, when cases spiked and put dangerous strain on the health-care system. Daily infections topped 1,800 and more than 800 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals.

The total number of deaths now stands at 1,722.

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COVID-19 cases start to climb again as variants spread, in step with dire forecasts – CTV News



Canada’s chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month of decline.

The “moderate increase” at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless strict public-health measures remain in place to combat more contagious strains of the virus.

“The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends,” Tam said Tuesday.

The uptick also lends new urgency to questions over how provinces will choose to allocate their various vaccines.

Guidance on the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine appears split, with Health Canada authorizing its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization saying it should not be administered to people 65 and over.

The committee cited concern about limited data on how it will work in older people.

Alberta’s health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses.

“With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible,” the B.C. health ministry said in an email.

“When we get confirmation of the exact amount that P.E.I. would be getting from AstraZeneca, we would be targeting AstraZeneca to healthy, younger individuals who are working in certain frontline, essential services,” said Dr. Heather Morrison, chief medical officer of health in P.E.I.

No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions.

Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed a steepening rise in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren’t tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons.

But Tam says more ground is being gained on “the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon” every day.

“Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track,” she said.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said a half-million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine — approved by Health Canada on Friday — will arrive Wednesday.

She said the first shipment of the vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India and formally called Covidshield is on the way, part of about 945,000 total vaccine doses slated for arrival this week.

In the light of the advisory committee’s recommendation, two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with those doses.

Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent.

But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada.

“If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that’s still a win for you,” Colijn said.

“I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.

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First AstraZeneca doses on their way, will be part of nearly 945K doses delivered this week: Anand – CTV News



The first tranche of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines is on its way to Canada and is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, as part of the 944,600 vaccine doses arriving this week, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday.

A total of 500,000 AstraZeneca shots are in transit to Canada from the Serum Institute of India and Verity Pharmaceuticals, as part of a deal for two million doses. As well, the weekly delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contains 444,600 doses.

“This week, we are on track to see approximately 945,000 doses of vaccines arriving in Canada,” said Anand. “Thus, almost a million doses will be delivered into this country this week alone, and next week we are set to receive more than 900,000 doses of vaccines,” she said.

With the addition of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada’s list of authorized vaccines, the federal government has said that shipment sizes are set to continue to increase. This aligns with the plans to begin immunizing more people, and could lead to an acceleration of the timeline of having at least 14.5 million Canadians fully vaccinated by the end of June.

“As our government ramps up the delivery of vaccines to provinces this week, we know that more Canadians will be offered the opportunity to receive their vaccine, and we encourage everyone who’s offered this opportunity to accept,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, adding that all who are vaccinated will need to continue to follow their local public health guidance.


Next week’s shipments will come from Pfizer and Moderna, as those firms work to meet their commitment to ship a combined total of six million doses by the end of March.

“We anticipate receiving over two million doses spread over the five weeks of March, with equal amounts each week,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin on Tuesday.

The balance of 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses coming to Canada through the Serum Institute will come over April and May, likely overlapping with the beginning of deliveries of the 20 million AstraZeneca doses Canada has secured through an agreement with AstraZeneca for shots developed in partnership with Oxford University and coming from the U.S. Health Canada’s approval authorized shots to come from both manufacturers.

While Pfizer’s shipments will continue to come to Canada weekly, Moderna will be moving from delivering doses every three weeks to sending new shipments every two weeks.

Fortin said that in the first two weeks of April, Pfizer is expected to send around 769,000 doses per week.

In light of the latest figures being confirmed, the federal government is in talks with the provinces and territories about the per capita allocations of these shipments.

“We will continue to lead the planning effort to ensure that the processes for delivering, storage, handling, and immunization clinics and the provinces and territories can keep pace with increasing shipment sizes of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines,” Fortin said.

More coming.

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Alberta seniors won't receive AstraZeneca vaccine following new recommendations – CTV Toronto



Albertans aged 65 or older will not receive the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine following new advice from a national advisory committee on who should and shouldn’t get the shot.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) in Canada is not recommending the use of the vaccine in people 65 or older due to “the insufficiency of evidence of efficacy in this age group at this time.”

Health Canada approved the two-dose vaccine for anyone 18 years or older last Friday and stresses there is no safety concerns for seniors. However, it’s ultimately up to the provinces and territories to determine which vaccine is given and to whom.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says Alberta will follow the advice from NACI, along with the government’s own vaccine advisory committee and Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“Now how that’s going to change the administration of those who are in phase two is still to be determined. We will be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon,” said Shandro.

Alberta is currently in phase one of its vaccine rollout and started immunizing all seniors in their 75th year or older last week.

The second phase is set to run from April to September and includes four different groups. Group A is everyone 65 to 74 years old no matter where they live, Indigenous people 50 years and older, and staff and residents of licensed supportive living that weren’t included in phase one.

Each phase is dependent on the vaccine supply and it’s yet to be seen if there will be changes to Alberta’s second phase as a result of the new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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