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Alberta looking at extending timeline for second dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Last Updated Mar 3, 2021 at 6:14 am MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — With the next stage of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout progressing in Alberta, there’s some consideration that the timelines around when people should get a second dose will be changed.

In British Columbia, officials extended the time between doses to four months, significantly longer than the three to four week timeframe originally backed by manufacturers of the vaccines. Ontario officials are also considering making the same change, in light of new evidence that shows how effective even a single dose of the vaccine can be at limiting severe health outcomes from the virus.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Tuesday that a similar decision could come in Alberta.

“That is something that we are going to consider. Now, what the exact period of time it’s going to be is still to be decided and we will be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended,” he said.

READ MORE: Most Canadians confident federal vaccine rollout is back on track: poll

Vaccinations opened up for Albertans born in 1946 or earlier in late February, opening up the shots for almost a quarter of a million additional people. After some early technical hiccups with the online appointment booking tool, about 125,000 bookings have been made and 35,000 have been vaccinated. Shandro said they are able to provide about 50,000 doses per week as supplies stabilize but that number could be bumped up to 250,000 per week by the end of March if the supply can meet the demand.

In prior stages of the vaccine rollout, the province prioritized getting second doses to health care staff and long-term care residents to ensure they could be fully immunized within the recommended timeframe. Now as the most vulnerable people have been largely protected and more vaccines are coming into the province, Shandro said they have had a chance to maximize the amount of first doses being administered.

“We have had to make some considerations, not knowing the predictability and stability of the delivery of vaccines, seeing the rug pulled out from under us in February,” he said.

READ MORE: National panel advises provinces not to use AstraZeneca vaccine on seniors 65-and-older

Shandro addede the addition of AstraZeneca’s vaccine will also help out with these efforts, and it remains unclear who may be eligible for those shots first as it is not being recommended for people older than 65.

In other vaccine-related news, Shandro said they are still examining what health conditions will be covered under the next stage of the vaccine plan which covers all Albertans who have severe health conditions.

He said they will try to cover the most vulnerable people with conditions most likely to lead to severe outcomes, such as hypertension, while also making it as clear as possible for those who have rare conditions or other illnesses that affect the immune system.