Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon everyone.

Before I provide today’s update, I would like to explain the why Alberta Health has concerns about the proposal to amend the Pfizer vaccine label to indicate that each vial contains 6 doses.

We are committed to safely and effectively using all vaccines the way they are packaged for use.

Whenever a sixth dose can be safely extracted from a vial, our teams are doing so, and have done since the start of the immunization program.

Alberta Health Services Public Health Immunizers are experienced in vaccine management,

And with this experience and currently available syringes, they have been able to safely extract a sixth dose from approximately half of the Pfizer vials.

This is in line with the numbers that we have heard from other provinces.

However, even with our trained professionals, it is not always possible to get six doses from every vial.

This is due to many factors, including the global shortage of the type of syringes that would be required to more consistently extract this 6th dose.

To achieve 6 doses per vial, a 1 cc or a 1 ml syringe must be used and, even then, we estimate that the 6th dose can only be achieved about 75% of the time.

These types of syringes are currently in short supply, globally.

AHS does have a provincial supply of these syringes, but more will be needed to immunize all Albertans.

If vials are re-labelled to indicate six doses, we will always ensure that the correct amount of vaccine will be provided as each dose is drawn.

But a sixth dose is not guaranteed, which is something that needs to be considered carefully.

Turning to today’s update, over the last 24 hours, we have identified 461 new cases of COVID-19, and completed more than 12,300 tests.  

This means our positivity rate currently stands at about 3.9%.

Looking to schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 300 schools, or about 12% of schools in the province.

Currently these schools have a combined total of 593 cases.

There are 591 people in hospital, including 112 in the ICU.

Unfortunately, seven new deaths have been reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

My condolences go to the loved ones of these individuals, and to anyone mourning the loss of a family member, a friend, a co-worker or a neighbour they cared about, for any reason.

Today, I want to take a few minutes to speak about influenza and what our current season tells us about COVID-19.

While the flu season is an annual occurrence, influenza remains a contagious and deadly virus.

Last year, we had 8,470 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in Alberta.

Over the year, there were a total of 1,605 hospitalizations, 161 ICU admissions, and 41 deaths in hospital among people with laboratory confirmed influenza.

This year, we are seeing a very different story.

To date, we have not had a single confirmed case of seasonal influenza in the province.

This is not a result of no longer testing for influenza or testing fewer samples.

In fact, our labs are doing more weekly influenza testing than they ever have before.

They’re completing about 300% more influenza tests than they would usually do in a typical year.

I want to again emphasize that every single one of those tests has come back negative for seasonal influenza.

More than 1.5 million doses of the influenza vaccine have also been administered.

That’s the highest uptake for immunizations in the last 10 years, and more than 200,000 more flu shots than we were at the same time last year.

The absence of seasonal influenza cases to date is a testament to our province, and to the power of the actions we have been taking to protect each other.

The measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have stopped the spread of influenza this year.

While we’d hoped there would be fewer influenza cases this year, what we have actually seen is that the public health measures put in place in these last 11 months have truly stopped seasonal influenza in its tracks.

This is a good thing, and a testament to the hard work and sacrifices of so many.

At the same time, the lack of flu cases this year also underscores the differences between the two viruses, and how dangerous COVID-19 truly is.

The measures that we have put in place to fight COVID-19 are unprecedented in Alberta’s history.

Yet, despite these steps, there have still been more than 122,000 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the province so far.

More than 5,300 Albertans have been hospitalized since the pandemic began, which is 4,000 more hospitalizations than we saw from influenza last year.

Similarly, more than 850 people have been admitted to the ICU from COVID-19.

We haven’t even had COVID in the province for a full year, and yet that’s still five times the total ICU number for the entire 2019-20 influenza season.

And, in just 11 months, COVID-19 has taken more lives than 10 years of influenza cases combined.

All of which reminds us yet again that COVID-19 is unlike any virus that we have faced in Alberta in more than 100 years.

It is highly contagious and, if we had not put strong measures in place to limit spread, its impact on our health system and our province could have been catastrophic.

There is hope on the horizon with the delivery of effective vaccines, and when our vaccine supply picks up, we will be able to expand our immunization campaign to more Albertans in the coming months.

In the meantime, we cannot underestimate the power of public health measures to protect us from COVID-19.

Even a single case can spark an outbreak, and every day our actions protect each other from those outbreaks.

By continuing to limit our in-person interactions whenever we can, we help stop the virus from spreading in our communities.

By wearing a mask, we protect those around us from the virus.

And by staying at home if we’re ill, we help stop the chain of transmission in its tracks.

Thank you to every Albertan who is keeping their community safe by continuing to prevent spread.

Thank you and we’re happy to take questions.