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Shandro explains rural rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta

Despite cold storage requirements of -80 C for the Pfizer vaccine and-20 C for Moderna, there has been no spoilage due to temperature.
Tyler Shandro
Health Minister Tyler Shandro. GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA/Photo

Getting doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to all corners of the province has taken some logistical gymnastics, says Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro, and so far there have been 38,000 doses given out outside of the Edmonton and Calgary zones. 

Those doses have been given out at 92 sites outside of Edmonton and Calgary. Despite cold storage requirements of -80 C for the Pfizer vaccine and-20 C for Moderna, Alberta's vaccine task force head Paul Wynnyk says there has been no spoilage due to temperature.

"I'm actually quite proud of the work that everybody did in that regard, because of the incredible cold storage requirements," Wynnyk said.

So far, 354 long-term care facilities across the province have had vaccinations distributed with 28,000 residents and 3,600 staff having already got the shot. 

On Tuesday, Shandro, Wynnyk and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw spoke with rural media to update residents on the vaccine rollout happening across the province. 

Vaccine delays have been widespread in Alberta and across Canada after the Pfizer manufacturing facility shut down temporarily so the company could scale up its operations.

Due to those delays, the province is only distributing second doses of the vaccine to Albertans and not giving out any new doses until vaccine supply ramps up again. 

When the province has more vaccine, it will focus on continuing to vaccinate those in phase 1 of its roll out plan, which includes seniors over the age of 75 and Indigenous seniors over the age of 65. 

Once the province begins to execute the next phase of the vaccine rollout, Albertans will be notified through many different types of media on how they can book appointments. 

"If they don't register in the first week they're eligible, they don't lose that opportunity," Hinshaw said. 

Nobody will ever miss their turn for the vaccination, the top doctor said. 

"Once eligible, always eligible."

COVID-19 in rural Alberta

Hinshaw said right now there is a perception that rural Alberta has fewer cases of COVID-19, but that is not the case. 

"At the moment, (the) north zone has the highest active case rate of COVID-19 in the province of all five of the zones," Hinshaw said. 

There are several municipalities in the north zone that have very high active cases right now, Hinshaw said, and the central zone has roughly the equivalent to Calgary right now in terms of active cases per 100,000. 

"In both north zone and central zone, we've actually had an uptick in our new case numbers in the last week or so," Hinshaw said. 

Because of high hospitalizations and cases across the entire province, and COVID-19 being present in all corners of Alberta, Hinshaw said Alberta Health will continue to take a province-wide approach to reopening rather than a regional one. 

"If we do choose to ease restrictions faster in one area of the province, there is a risk that in the locations where we're seeing higher transmission, you could have people traveling from a higher transmission area to a lower transmission area; it could actually cause risk in those locations where there's more activities permitted," Hinshaw said.