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Vaccines, restrictions, and Stampede: An interview with Alberta's Health Minister

Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 at 1:04 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Over a million Albertans have already received at least their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, but how close is the province to getting back to normal?

“The vaccines are not just the light at the end of the tunnel, but they are the end of the tunnel,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro told 660 NEWS in an exclusive interview. “We’re going to see as more and more people get the vaccines, that our cases will come down.”

He explained when cases come down, hospitalizations will come down, restrictions will be eased.

Restrictions:

“We look forward to going back to a way of life where we don’t have these restrictions,” Shandro said. “The reason we had to tighten restrictions again this spring is because there was a race between vaccines and the variants.”

He credited the variants lead in that race to the federal government not delivering vaccines on schedule.

“We know that Albertans are tired of restrictions and want to move forward.. and us too,” he added. “Now that we have the vaccines starting to arrive and get into the arms of Albertans, we’ll start to see the benefits of that.”

He repeated that when more people get vaccinated and case counts go down, it’ll lower the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed and then Alberta can ease its restrictions.

Calgary Stampede:

When asked about Calgary Stampede and other summer events, Shandro said while the government and event organizers are optimistic, it’s an evolving situation.

READ MORE: Premier Kenney believes Calgary Stampede will happen this summer

“If more restrictions are needed in the near future, of course we’ll continue to be responsive to the evidence,” he said. “We hope we don’t have any further restrictions, but we’ll have to wait and see.

He added that there are still talks between those festival organizers and the emergency operations centre.

“We continue to be optimistic, knowing though that the current increase in cases is a little bit of a worry we’re continuing to gauge right now.”

Interprovincial travel restrictions:

The health minister explained there would be concerns over enforcement if interprovincial travel restrictions were put in place.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, B.C. Premier John Horgan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have all spoken about locking down travel between provinces, but nothing has been established yet.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Trudeau supports limiting travel within Canada if necessary

“We’re happy to continue to work with our partners in other provinces, and make sure we’re listening to Doctor Hinshaw and her suggestions on how we limit community spread,” Shandro said. “We’ll continue to make sure the restrictions we are going forward with here in Alberta are going to be based on the evidence.”

RELATED: Inter-provincial travel discouraged for spring break as Alberta records 50 new cases of B.1.1.7 variant

He noted while some of the quick spread of the virus in Alberta happened because of interprovincial travel, it’s also just a consequence of community spread.

AstraZeneca vaccine:

On Tuesday, Canada announced its first report of a blood clot occurring after a person received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Is Alberta worried about those rare cases?

READ MORE:

“We’ll keep on tracking any adverse events, but the AstraZeneca vaccine, just for everyone to remember, is safe, it’s effective,” Shandro said. “And we hope all eligible Albertans are stepping up to take the (vaccine) when it’s available to them.”

READ MORE: Province to allow walk-in appointments for AstraZeneca vaccine at pair of Alberta clinics