LAKELAND - An Alberta Health Services (AHS) mobile health van was making the rounds in St. Paul this week in an attempt to reach residents who are not yet fully vaccinated. As of Wednesday, 51 per cent of the St. Paul area population over age 12 have received at least one dose, compared to communities like Okotoks where 73.8 per cent of the population age 12 and over have received a first or both rounds of vaccine.
Two Hills County is also lagging behind the provincial average of 75.6 per cent with just 40.9 per cent of the population over age 12 with at least one dose of vaccine. Bonnyville is at 53.8 per cent and Lac La Biche is siting at 57 per cent of the population vaccinated.
On Wednesday, the van was in the parking lot outside Giant Tiger with local public health nurses on hand to deliver vaccine on site. Launched in 2019, the mobile health van has the capacity to provide residents in the AHS North Zone with a variety of health services and resources. Wednesday's focus was COVID-19 vaccinations. However, the nurses were also providing information on sexually transmitted diseases given increasing concern around the number of cases of syphilis in Alberta. The "rate of syphilis has increased by more than 10 times since 2014, including increases of nearly 200 per cent in 2018 and 47 per cent in 2019," according to AHS statistics.Meanwhile, the low COVID-19 vaccination rates in some parts of the province was addressed Wednesday during a pandemic update by Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and what that potentially might mean for a 4th wave this fall. With the lifting of restrictions, Hinshaw said she fully expects to see an increase in cases as has been experienced in other jurisdictions.
"I want to reiterate that those who don't have the protection of a vaccine, now is the time to access that protection. It is widely available across the province through AHS, through pharmacies and physicians offices and now is the perfect time to choose protection," Hinshaw said.
"We know that across the province there are a variety of factors that are influencing people's vaccination status. Certainly, some people are concerned, have questions about the vaccine, may feel that they haven't received answers that satisfy them yet," she said, adding people under the age of 40 have the lowest rate of vaccination.
"There could be a feeling among some in that age group that they are personally not at risk of COVID-19 causing significant outcomes for them, which is part of the reason why I provided the information earlier to ensure that people know, even in that younger age group, there are individuals who go on to require hospitalization care, ICU care and can have serious and long-lasting implications from COVID-19 infection."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this news article incorrectly identified the "AHS mobile health van" as the new "mobile vaccination clinic" announced by AHS last week. The "mobile vaccination clinic" was launched to "focus on rural communities, hard-to-reach populations, or those working in remote camps where vaccinations may be less accessible." Meanwhile, the "AHS mobile health van" has been operating in the AHS North Zone since 2019 with a focus on "providing residents with increased access to an array of health services, information and resources," according to AHS. It was this unit that was in St. Paul this week.