COVID-19 booster doses available for Albertans aged 12-17 starting next week

The province announced Tuesday that Albertans between the ages of 12 and 17 will soon be able to get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement came on the second anniversary of Alberta announcing its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the province.

Starting March 14, Albertans aged 12 to 17 who have received their second dose of vaccine at least five months ago will be able to get a booster shot.

Pediatric doses for kids between the ages of five and 11 are currently available at a walk-in basis at AHS clinics, according to Health Minister Jason Copping.

The province discovered 467 new COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the current active case total to 7,149. Due to restrictions on who can get a PCR test, the total number of cases is likely much higher.

According to Copping, there is currently no plan to expand PCR testing to the general public.

“We are focusing our efforts on high-risk individuals and high-risk locations, but given that we’re coming down the other side of Omicron and moving to an endemic phase, we don’t see the need to open up PCR testing for right now,” said Copping.

The health minister said that Alberta has seen a steady drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of February.

“New daily admissions have dropped almost every day for over a month since they peaked on Feb. 7,” said Copping.

There are currently 1,106 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Alberta, including 77 people in the ICU, with both figures approaching numbers found in mid-to-late January. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, also said that seven more people have died due to COVID-19.

The deaths were of individuals ranging in age from in their 60s to more than 80 years old and bring the total number of COVID-19 deaths since the statr of the pandemic up to 3,979. 

Hinshaw added that COVID-19 is still a threat, but that the “COVID population risk has been reduced.”

“We no longer need to respond to COVID as the biggest health threat we collectively face and yet we still need to mitigate its direct impacts,” said Hinshaw. “Given the tension between these two realities, one of the most important tools in our way forward is dialogue and understanding different perspectives.

“I ask that all of us continue to be gentle with ourselves and others as we go through this transition.”

ENDING VACCINE MANDATE FOR AHS WORKERS

The health minister also announced Tuesday that AHS was directed to “rescind its Immunization for Workers policy” as of March 10.

In 2021, AHS employees, including frontline health-care workers, were told they needed to be fully vaccinated. At the time, workers who didn’t want to get vaccinated faced being put on unpaid leave.

In November, unvaccinated employees were allowed to submit negative COVID-19 test results instead if they worked at a facility that would be short staffed without them.

As of 4 p.m. on March 10, unvaccinated employees will no longer be required to present negative test results to go to work, added Copping. Workers on temporary leave were also encouraged to work with their managers to determine a return date.

“When this immunization policy was implemented late last year, it was to protect patients, health-care workers and the public during a time of record transmission and an incredibly severe wave of Delta,” said Copping.

“Fortunately now we are on the tail end of the Omicron wave and with our high vaccination rate, we’re in a very different situation.”

The province administered 2,202 tests on Monday resulting in a 20.53 per cent positivity. The seven-day average of test positivity now sits at 19.32 per cent and has remained under 20 per cent for two straight days for the first time since late December. 

The next data update is scheduled for Wednesday. 

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