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Alberta prioritizing second doses for long-term care residents as Pfizer shipments slowdown

Last Updated Jan 20, 2021 at 11:03 am MDT

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — Several adjustments are being made to the COVID-19 vaccine implementation plan as Alberta grapples with a looming slowdown supply from Pfizer.

The pharmaceutical giant announced Tuesday that Canada would not be receiving a shipment of vaccines next week as it continues to deal with upgrades to its plant in Belgium.

“I am extremely concerned by the announcement that Pfizer is even further decreasing the amount of COVID-19 vaccine coming to Canada from its factory in Belgium, with no doses expected to arrive next week and further anticipated reductions in the two weeks following,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a statement.

“With fewer vaccines arriving, we have no choice but to focus on delivering second doses for those who have already been vaccinated.”

All first dose appointments for eligible health-care workers are being postponed and some second dose appointments will need to be rescheduled.

“Vaccine has been reserved to ensure that we are able to provide second doses to all long-term care and designated supportive living residents,” Shandro said.

A decrease in vaccines may also further delay Alberta’s plans to expand vaccination to all seniors over the age of 75 and individuals over the age of 65 in First Nations communities and Metis Settlements.

“This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control. We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible. And we will continue to inform Albertans of any changes to our vaccination plans,” Shandro said.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said some Moderna vaccines are being used to offer second doses and the province received some Pfizer doses this week.

“We’re working very hard to adjust all of our planning, our spreadsheets and our forward appointment bookings,” she said.

“I don’t have a specific ability to say exactly how that will roll out, especially because we don’t yet know exactly how much Pfizer vaccine we’ll receive the first two weeks of February.”

“What I can say is that second dose vaccines for those who live in long-term care or designated supportive living are our top priority and getting second doses for those very high-risk individuals will be prioritized.”

They will also do what they can to provide a second dose to all others who received their first vaccination within the approved window of time, Hinshaw said.

“Some of those second dose appointments may need to be moved but we don’t yet have that determination.”

“It will depend, again, on the work that’s being done today and over the next several days once we get further determination of our February numbers.”

On Tuesday, the province announced it found 456 new COVID-19 cases and 17 deaths.

The death toll in the province now sits at 1,463.

Alberta completed 8,592 tests with the positivity rate sitting at 5.6 per cent.

Hinshaw said while the positivity rate is declining, it’s still far above the one to three per cent that the province saw for most of the fall.

“The numbers fluctuate on a daily basis, but we continue to see an overall decline in testing numbers from last month,” she said.

“We don’t know all the reasons for this, but one factor could be fewer people getting sick.”

“While having fewer people showing symptoms and needing testing is a good thing, I want to remind anyone who experiences any symptom of COVID-19 to stay home and book testing immediately.”

There are 740 Albertans in hospital, with 119 of those in the ICU.