Moderna vaccine to kick-start continuing-care home vaccinations
The Alberta government is pledging to expand long-term care supports after reporting another 26 COVID-19 deaths in the province on Tuesday.
Premier Jason Kenney said the first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in Alberta after receiving Health Canada approval. The initial 16,900 doses will jump-start critical immunization of long-term care and supportive-living residents.
The Moderna vaccine, unlike the Pfizer-biontech product, can be stored at “moderate temperatures” and is more easily transported, said Kenney, making it the “ideal vaccine” to reach the province's most vulnerable.
“As more shipments of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines arrive in early January, immunization will focus on residents of long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities, followed by seniors aged 75 and over and First Nations on reserve, Inuit and on-settlement Metis individuals aged 65 and over,” said Kenney.
The province recorded another 879 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the active case count to 14,785. In the past 24 hours, just over 11,000 tests were conducted, meaning the positivity rate was about 7.7 per cent. There are now 890 Albertans in hospital, 153 of whom are in the ICU. The 26 new deaths pushed the provincial COVID-19 death toll to 1,028.
In the Calgary zone, about 71 per cent of outbreaks currently listed are in supportive and long-term care facilities. There are currently 36 supportive-living sites and 21 long-term care homes where COVID-19 transmission is taking place. Trends are similar in all health zones across the province.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said growing outbreaks and infections in these facilities are linked to the “behaviour of all Albertans” and a result of community spread.
“The data show overwhelmingly that the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, but the nature of continuing care means that people in these facilities are at much higher risk than seniors who are living independently or in other settings like lodges and seniors' apartments,” said Shandro. “COVID-19 comes into continuing care from the community, so as cases have increased in the community we've seen increases, unfortunately, in continuing care as well.”
Despite a range of measures implemented by the province to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission in these facilities, Shandro said there is no substitute for controlling community spread.
He said about 65 per cent of Albertans who have died from COVID-19 were residents of longterm care facilities, as of Dec. 18. Shandro added that other provinces, including B.C. and Ontario, are seeing similar statistics.
Alberta's first 500 COVID-19 deaths were recorded over more than eight months. The next 500 fatalities were announced in about a month, surpassing 1,000 deaths on Monday.
Kenney said it's “very clear” that social gatherings for Thanksgiving and Halloween led to a spike in cases, but said it's likely daily death tolls will soon taper as a result of the lockdown measures announced in mid-november.
“Fortunately, our fatality rate here in Alberta is about half the national fatality rate,” said Kenney. “Any fatality is a tragedy. At the same time, I think that speaks well about how Albertans have risen to the challenge.”