Live at 4 p.m.: Hinshaw to provide update on COVID-19 response as 17,000 more Albertans book for vaccine

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More than 17,000 newly eligible Albertans have signed up for appointments to receive doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines since eligibility expanded on Monday.

Getting the jab could become easier for some as Alberta Health looks to offer COVID-19 vaccinations through community physicians as early as April. Administering the increased supply of doses arriving in the province through these doctors would speed up the vaccine rollout and improve accessibility, said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in a statement.

“Albertans look to their family physicians as a trusted primary source of health care. Community physicians who are joining the effort to administer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone who wants one will offer Albertans additional ways to receive the vaccine and protect themselves against this very real threat to their health,” Shandro said Tuesday.

About 500 physicians and stand-alone clinics have expressed interest in participating in the vaccine program. The 1,100 doctors at these clinics would extend daily capacity by 14,000 doses of vaccine. Alberta Health has been working with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) to determine how this will work.

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Dr. Paul Boucher, president of AMA, said physicians are eager to help protect their patients from COVID-19.

“Those family physicians who are able to participate — in their own clinics or through the new rapid flow sites — will make a substantial difference and enhance Alberta’s response to the pandemic,” Boucher said in a statement.

Bookings through Alberta Health Services for those eligible expanded to include Albertans born in 1948 or earlier and First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals born in 1963 on Tuesday, as part of Phase 2A of the province’s immunization strategy.

On Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, mapped out what eligibility will look like for the subsequent two stages, Phases 2B and 2C.

Once Phase 2A is complete, the province will shift to Phase 2B — likely in April — which would open eligibility for adults with severe underlying conditions. Detailed information about what Alberta Health considers a severe condition is available at alberta.ca/covid19-vaccine.

Phase 2C will follow that, offering vaccines to residents and support staff at specific congregate living and work settings that are at risk for outbreaks, health-care workers who haven’t yet qualified, and caregivers of at-risk youth or people who are not eligible for the shots themselves.

As of Monday, Alberta had administered 368,124 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 91,593 people had received both shots.

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Hinshaw will be providing an update on the COVID-19 response Tuesday afternoon.

Alberta detected another 65 variant cases on Monday, all of them the B.1.1.7 strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Of the 985 variant cases reported to date, 474 remain active.

Alberta reported 364 new cases, which came from 6,618 tests for a positivity rate of about 5.5 per cent. There are 4,811 active cases provincewide as of Monday.

The province’s R-value averaged 1.07 last week, meaning the transmission rate was increasing.

As of Monday, there were 255 people in hospital, including 42 in intensive-care units. This was a slight increase from the 248 hospitalizations and 38 ICU admissions reported the day before.

Three COVID-19 deaths were reported Monday. The provincial death toll sits at 1,949.

sbabych@postmedia.com
Twitter: @BabychStephanie


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