COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.
As of Thursday, January 14, more than 74,000 Albertans have received their first dose. Alberta Health Services (AHS) is doing a great job – in recent days, they've ramped up to more than 8,000 shots per day. The result is that we're a leader in Canada in getting doses out promptly as they come in. According to the independent COVID-19 Tracker, as of Friday, January 15, we've administered 83% of all the doses we've received, the highest of the 4 largest provinces.
By the end of this weekend, January 17, all our continuing-care facilities will have received the first doses of vaccine for their residents and staff. That's a huge milestone – those residents are the most vulnerable Albertans so they're our top priority, and I believe we're the first province in Canada to get the first dose to all of them. At the same time we're vaccinating other health-care professionals at highest risk, including staff in ICUs and COVID in-patient units, operating rooms, emergency, and paramedics.
We're ready to move on to the next priorities, including Albertans age 75-plus and those age 65-plus in First Nations communities and Metis Settlements. But we don't have enough doses to move forward at the pace we're geared up to deliver. AHS has already run out of vaccine in some places, and we're likely to run out altogether next week, between January 18 and 24.
We need more doses and we need them now.
We need them to save lives, and reduce the burden on our hospitals and other health services; we need them to reopen our economy and get people back to work. I was glad to announce the first step in easing our current restrictions on Thursday, January 14 – it's a small step but an important one. If Albertans keep doing the right thing and driving the case count down, we can do more, but we need vaccines to put the pandemic behind us.
I understand that people are getting restless, that folks are tired of the sacrifices they're being asked to make to combat this pandemic. I understand the anger that Albertans rightfully felt when they saw public officials ignore the same rules that they've been asked to follow to fight the coronavirus.
The last 11 months have been exhausting – financially, emotionally, and personally. And like all Albertans, I want life to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
To do that, we need more doses and we need them sooner. At 2 doses per person, we need about 175,000 doses to complete the vaccination of the Phase 1 groups we're working on right now. Next, we have 240,000 seniors age 75-plus, so we need another 480,000 doses for them.
On the current schedule we had expected to have barely enough doses for those groups by the end of March – and I emphasize, the schedule is the best case. Our experience is the volumes tend to get revised lower and the delivery times tend to get later. And with the recent news from Pfizer, our shipments over the next few weeks may be drastically reduced.
Based on the current expected supply, we're not going to be able to move through our phased vaccination rollout as we planned. We had planned to complete our Phase 1 priority groups by the end of March and right now that's not going to be possible. The reality is that we're totally dependent on the contracts negotiated by the federal government, and we need more doses sooner than we're expecting to get them.
We've shown that Alberta is ready to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of Albertans as quickly as we get them. Last week, January 11 to 17, we broke vaccination records almost every single day.
And we can ramp up further, if we get the supply.
We deliver well over a million flu shots every fall, with the support of community pharmacies and family physicians.
The one thing we can't do is administer vaccines we don't have.
For more information, please visit alberta.ca/COVID19-vaccine
Tyler Shandro served as Minister of Health from April 30, 2019 to September 21, 2021.