Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the vaccination program will be accelerated. (Photography by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the vaccination program will be accelerated. (Photography by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

Albertans who are 75 and older to get vaccinated starting in February

There were 23 more deaths reported in the province

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said all Albertans age 75 and older will start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as of next month.

Kenney reported that Alberta has gained 639 reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours — and 23 more deaths. He sent his condolences to the families.

He called it “welcome news” that new shipments of Moderna Vaccine have arrived in the province.

Alberta Health officials reviewed their options and decided to stop holding back half of the vaccines for the second doses that are needed to reach about 90 per cent efficacy against the virus. This will speed up the vaccination program, said Kenney.

The premier added a cabinet committees decided Alberta should follow several other provinces and use all the available vaccines to deliver first doses to people.

AHS has been instructed to give out as many vaccinations as possible, and to count on future vaccine deliveries for the needed second doses.

Starting in February, Kenney expects senior Albertans – 75 and older, as well as First Nations and Metis people age 65 and older, will begin being vaccinated. Indigenous people are having less successful outcomes when treated for the virus, explained Kenney.

The province is still in the first phase of delivering vaccines to staff and residents of long-term care facilities as well as health workers in hospital intensive care units.

The province announced that paramedics and first responders will now be added to phase one.

“By the end of Monday we expect to have delivered 7,000 doses of the vaccine to front-line health workers,” said Kenney, including respiratory therapists. A total of 46,791 vaccines have so far been given to Albertans.

Kenney said he wants to soon expand the vaccination programs to other health care workers, including people working in hospital emergency departments.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said it may be hard to tell at the moment, but the restrictions that continue to be hard on some Alberta businesses appear to be starting to work in bringing down the previously rising curve of new COVID-19 cases.

The death rate is still high, but it stems from exposures from several weeks ago, and will take a while to decline, he predicted.

“We have slowed the pandemic and this is slowly allowing us to roll it back.”

As of Monday, there are 639 new active cases of COVID-19 in the province bringing the total to 13,917. There are 811 Albertans in hospital with the virus and 130 of these are in intensive care — including 16 at Red Deer hospital.

About 1,028 people have died of COVID-19 so far in Alberta.

Central Zone has 1,472 active cases of the virus, as announced by Kenney on Monday.

There were 240 new active cases in Red Deer, and 51 in Red Deer County. Lacombe County has 31 active cases Stettler County has six active cases.

Ponoka County, City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have 666 active cases combined.

Clearwater County has 71 active cases of COVID-19, Mountain View County has 26, while Kneehill County has 12.

Coronavirus