Check against delivery.

Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.

Before I get to today’s numbers, I want to let Albertans know about international reports of a rare condition appearing in a small number of individuals after receiving an mRNA vaccine.

The WHO, the CDC and the European Medicines Agency have reported rare instances of myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both conditions, the body’s immune system causes inflammation, often in response to infection or some other trigger.

This is being reported after vaccination, most often in younger males and more frequently after a second dose of vaccine.

These reports are very rare. It is not yet known if there is a relationship between these reported instances and any COVID-19 vaccines, but all reports are being investigated to understand what happened.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada, along with my team in Alberta and other provinces and territories, are reviewing reports and monitoring for any additional information.

To date, Canada is not seeing higher rates of these conditions than would typically be expected in the general population, and we have had no reports of either of these conditions after vaccination in Alberta.

We will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and other provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation closely.

We are sharing this as part of reminding Albertans that we take vaccine safety very seriously, and we will always be transparent about any new information that emerges.

It’s important to remember that these are rare reports of a condition that is known to happen due to other triggers, so it is not clear yet what link, if any, is with vaccines.

The bottom line is the vaccines we have save lives. They are incredibly safe and the best way to protect your health.

Turning to today’s numbers…

Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 296 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 6,800 tests.  

Our positivity rate was about 4.6%.

We have identified 305 additional cases of variants of concern in the last 24 hours.

That is cases that extend further back, historically, which is why that’s larger than the total number of COVID cases.

There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 364 schools, which represents 15 per cent of all schools in the province.

Again, this represents a number of outbreaks declared within the last 28 days, which includes some outbreaks declared prior to the two-week closure.

Hospitalizations continue to decline and there are now 411 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 120 in the ICU.

 Sadly, 5 new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

We must never forget that these are not just numbers… they are people who lost their lives to COVID-19 and who leave behind family and friends who are grieving them.

My thoughts are with everyone who is mourning a loss, whether from COVID-19 or any other cause.

I want to talk briefly today about a change that was made yesterday around contact tracing for variants of concern.

With the lab now screening all positive COVID-19 cases for these variants, case investigation teams will now be re-starting second calls for cases with variants of concern other than the B.1.1.7, or U.K variant.

This second notification will allow AHS to do even more in-depth investigations to find out where the case may have been exposed.

While it remains critical to minimize transmission of all COVID-19 cases, we want to pay particular attention to the lower volume variants of concern, specifically P.1, sometimes known as Brazilian variant, B.1.351, sometimes known as the South African variant, and B.1.617, sometimes known as the Indian variant.

 In these cases, we have opportunities for more aggressive containment.

As the B.1.1.7 variant is our dominant strain, we will not be doing second calls for these cases.

And, these second calls are in addition to all the other case investigation and contact tracing work that happens for every single positive case.

We have now administered more than 2.88 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in our province.

This includes more than 44,000 doses yesterday.

I am pleased to see that there has been strong interest in booking second dose appointments among those who got their first dose in March or earlier.

For months now, I, and other medical experts, have stressed the importance of getting vaccine.  This is because vaccines work.

They save lives, and they are our path out of this pandemic.

Today, I’d like to share some preliminary real-world data showing just what that means in our province.

This data is from the cases that we’ve seen in Alberta, and it’s clear that vaccines are remarkably effective.

Let’s start with cases. Since January 1st, 96% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta were either unvaccinated or diagnosed within two weeks of receiving their first dose, while their immunity was still building.

Just 0.2% of all people who had one dose of vaccine in that time frame since January 1st, got COVID once 14 days had passed since that shot.

This shows you the power of the vaccine at preventing infection.

When we look at hospitalizations and fatalities, the same story emerges.

Since January 1st, 93% of the COVID-19 cases that ended up needing hospital care were either not vaccinated at all, or diagnosed with infection within two weeks of receiving their first dose.

In that time frame, since January 1st up till yesterday, there were 706 deaths due to COVID-19.

88% of these deaths were in individuals who were unvaccinated or who were diagnosed with infection before the vaccine had a chance to be effective within those two weeks from their first dose.

These numbers reinforce just how important vaccines are.

While no vaccine or treatment for any condition is ever perfect, these vaccines work better than we could have expected.

We can expect both the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 to decrease even more as more of the population is protected by first and second doses.

Our data also clearly show that vaccines are effective against the most common variant circulating in Alberta right now.

In Alberta, one dose of an mRNA vaccine has proven to be 73 per cent effective against infection with the B.1.1.7 variant, which is the dominant strain in the province right now.

Two doses are 91 per cent effective at preventing infection with this variant.

In terms of the P.1 variant, a single dose is 75 per cent effective against infection while two doses bump that up to 89 per cent.

I want to note that vaccine effectiveness estimates for AstraZeneca vaccine and effectiveness against other emerging variants aren’t yet available for Alberta, due to limited sample sizes.

As soon as we have more reliable data for you on either of these, I will share it.

All of the vaccine effectiveness information I’ve shared today, and a whole lot more, is now available online on our dashboard. This will be updated regularly.

After 15 difficult months spent living and working in a global pandemic, we have safe, effective vaccines to get COVID-19 under control. 

I hope this data from here at home in Alberta helps demonstrate just how powerful these COVID-19 vaccines are.

I also hope it motivates more people to get protected with their first and second doses as soon as they can.

The evidence is clear: Vaccines work, and they save lives.

By getting your vaccine, you’re helping protect your health and the health of everyone around you.

Thank you, and I’m happy to take questions.