Albertans who received their COVID-19 vaccine in April or earlier are now eligible to book their second-dose appointment, the premier announced Thursday as the province moved to the next stage of reopening.
“Welcome to Stage 2 Alberta,” Premier Jason Kenney said. “We are so much closer to a post-pandemic reality.
“This is an exciting time for our province as we move into the last phase of this brutal pandemic.”
The threshold to reach Stage 2 requires 60 per cent of Albertans aged 12 or older receiving their first vaccine dose and fewer that 500 hospitalizations. Under the new restrictions, outdoor gatherings up to 20 people are permitted, gyms and fitness studios can open, and restaurants may resume indoor dining with a maximum of six people per table.
The province reported 178 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday after completing about 5,500 tests. The provincial positivity rate is now 3.3 per cent.
There are 3,810 active cases and 306 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, including 81 in ICU.
The premier said these numbers represent a 31 per cent decrease in hospitalizations since Stage 1 began.
The provincial R value, which helps demonstrate if COVID-19 is spreading, remains below one meaning community transmission is slowing.
Six more deaths from COVID-19 were reported Thursday, including:
- Edmonton zone: a man in his 60s and a woman in her 90s. Both deaths had no known comorbidities.
- North zone: a man in his 40s with no known comorbidities and a man in his 70s with comorbidities.
- South zone: a man in his 60s with comorbidities.
- Calgary zone: a women in her 70s with comorbidities.
“This encouraging trend is important to maintain,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. “As we move into Stage 2 today, it remains critical for all of us to follow all of the public health measures that are currently in place.”
According to the premier, Stage 2 keeps strong public health measures in place to keep case counts low as more people get immunity from vaccines.
“I’d like to again offer my thanks to every Albertan who has taken the step to get vaccinated,” Kenney said. “You’ve chosen to protect not only yourself but those around you and really to protect our whole province.”
SECOND DOSE DELIVERY RAMP-UP
According to the premier, the ramp up in vaccine bookings means another 650,000 Albertans can start booking immunization appointments.
“We have made remarkable progress,” Kenney said. Albertans have worked incredibly hard to crush the spike and get vaccinated against COVID-19. But we still have work to do.”
“Albertans need to continue to sign up, show up and follow up for all first and second doses so we can finally put this pandemic behind us.”
SNOWBIRDS ASKED TO SUBMIT VACCINE RECORDS
Albertans who received their COVID-19 vaccinations outside of Canada or Alberta are being asked to submit their immunization records to Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Anyone who received a first, second, or both doses outside of Alberta can bring their vaccination records to any of the 141 AHS immunization clinics throughout the province to update their medical records and ensure their vaccination status is included in the province’s overall vaccine tally.
“I am pleased that there are many Albertans who made the choice to be vaccinated while vacationing away from home,” said Tyler Shandro, minister of health.
“We are determined to make sure that every Albertan, no matter where they were vaccinated, is able to access their records via their MyHealth Records account.”
Tyler Shandro, minister of health, said Alberta leads the country for the number of fully vaccinated people.
Approximately 16 per cent of Albertans aged 12 or over are fully vaccinated while the national average is about 11 per cent overall.
“We are the highest of the four largest provinces by a wide margin,” Shandro said. “Now we are taking another step forward.”
For those who received an AstraZeneca vaccine as their first dose, Shandro said the decision on what second dose vaccine to receive is “your choice.”
“We recommend you wait eight weeks though from your first dose, and it’s your choice whether you book a second dose of AstraZeneca, or whether you choose a second dose of one of the two mRNA vaccines.”
The premier spoke to Albertans who believe they do not need to be vaccinated because everyone else around them is receiving immunity from vaccines.
“That is not the Alberta way,” he said. “To let others determine our destiny.
“Our opening is not guaranteed, Alberta. We need to continue getting first doses into arms if we want to reach Stage 3 and full openness.”
INCENTIVES FOR VACCINES?
Kenney was asked if Alberta had made a decision on offering vaccine incentives to help drive immunization uptake.
The premier said Shandro would be presenting options to cabinet next Monday.
“We’re at the point now where we really have to start shaking the trees on for that first dose demand,” Kenney said. “We haven’t made final decisions but we’re giving it a serious look.”
Hinshaw clarified that if there is any incentive offered it would take into account all Albertans who have already received their vaccination.
“You are going to be eligible if a lottery goes ahead so don’t wait to take the opportunity you have right now (to get vaccinated),” she said.
In May, the premier said the province was exploring the option of offering incentives for those who got vaccinated.
Several businesses in Alberta have offered perks, discounts, free food or beverages for those who have been immunized against COVID-19. The University of Lethbridge created a contest to grant free tuition to nine lucky vaccinated students.